Albanians stun Russians and heighten Irish ambition

Euro 2004 round-up
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The Independent Online

Albania produced the shock of the day in the Euro 2004 qualifying matches by scoring twice in the last 10 minutes to defeat Russia 3-1 and not only boosted their own outside chance of taking second place in Group 10 but also gave the Republic of Ireland new hope.

Albania produced the shock of the day in the Euro 2004 qualifying matches by scoring twice in the last 10 minutes to defeat Russia 3-1 and not only boosted their own outside chance of taking second place in Group 10 but also gave the Republic of Ireland new hope.

The Albanians missed a penalty after 18 minutes when Sergei Ovchinnikov saved Klodian Duro's spot-kick. Two minutes later they went ahead when Altin Rraklli struck, but the goal merely sparked waves of Russian attacks, which finally produced an equaliser in the 77th minute through Dimitri Loskov. Having been under siege, Albania restored their advantage only two minutes later when the midfielder Altin Lala dribbled past two defenders and rounded the goalkeeper, and the Brescia striker Igli Tare added a third in the 82nd minute.

Aside from Russia, two powers of the European game encountered problems. Germany were held to a draw at home by Lithuania in Scotland's group, and Spain were thwarted in Ukraine. Germany went ahead after eight minutes when Carsten Ramelow claimed his first international by backheeling Jörg Böhme's shot into the Lithuanian net. They then dominated but were caught out by a counter-attack in the 73rd minute when Tomas Razanauskas equalised to ensure Scotland would take over at the top of group five.

In Kiev Spain were caught out after 12 minutes when their goalkeeper Iker Casillas failed to deal with Andriy Shevchenko's cross and Andriy Voronin scored. After the interval the Spaniards had Ukraine on the run but did not break through until the 83rd minute when Raul pounced after Diego Tristan's shot was blocked. Four minutes later Spain went ahead when Ruben Baraja set up Joseba Etxeberria, but in injury time and Olexander Horshkov met Andriy Husin's cross with a volley on the run to make it 2-2.

Italy had no such problems, though, as the took closer order in Wales's group. They beat Finland 2-0 with two early goals by Christian Vieri following good work by Francesco Totti. France continued their perfect run in Group One with a 6-0 win over Malta, Thierry Henry and Zinadine Zidane each scoring twice.

Manchester United's Ruud van Nistelrooy headed home Edgar Davids' cross on the stroke of half-time to give Holland the lead against the Czech Republic but they had to settle for a draw after Jan Koller equalised midway through the second half when an inspired run by Liverpool's Milan Baros set up his first chance of the game.

The day claimed a victim when Anghel Iordanescu was sacked as Romania's coach after his side were thrashed 5-2 at home by Denmark.

Paul Gascoigne, the former England midfielder, treated a sell-out crowd of about 20,000 in Lanzhou to a goal after 14 minutes of his China B-league debut for Gansu Tianma. He beat two men on a run and buried his shot in the top corner as his side won 2-0.

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