More misery as Albania produce shock

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The Independent Online

Alban Bushaj and Ervin Vataj pinned England to the bottom of their World Cup qualifying group as they scored the goals which secured Albania a surprising 2-0 victory over Greece in Tirana yesterday.

Alban Bushaj and Ervin Vataj pinned England to the bottom of their World Cup qualifying group as they scored the goals which secured Albania a surprising 2-0 victory over Greece in Tirana yesterday.

Bushaj struck five minutes after the interval and Vataj added the second in the last minute to give the Albanians their first victory in Group Nine after they had lost their opening game 2-1 in Finland. The result lifted Albania to third place in the group on three points behind Germany and Finland, with England at the bottom with only one point after two games.

A single goal by Hakan Sukur, the Internazionale striker, gave Turkey a hard fought 1-0 victory over Azerbaijan in their Group Four qualifying match in Baku.

The Azeris held out for longer than expected but Hakan Sukur finally broke their resistance in the 72nd minute when he fired past their goalkeeper, Dmitri Kramarenko.

The victory was Turkey's second in the group and followed a 1-1 draw with Sweden on Saturday. They beat Moldova 2-0 in their opening game in September. Azerbaijan remain bottom of the group, having lost all of their three matches so far.

Russia maintained their 100 per cent start to their qualifying campaign when they beat Luxembourg 3-0 in a Group One match.

They chalked up their fifth successive win over the minnows of world football, having been drawn in the same qualifying group for the third successive World Cup.

Maxim Buznikin put Russia ahead with a diving header in the 19th minute when he met an Alexander Mostovoi free-kick at the far post. Dmitri Khokhlov made it 2-0 after 12 minutes of the second half and Yegor Titov added a third with another header in the final minute.

Luxembourg rarely threatened the Russian defence as they were content to stay back for much of the game in the hope of keeping the score to a respectable level.

Russia, whose scheduled match against Yugoslavia in Belgrade last Saturday was postponed due to the political unrest there, have six points from two matches following their 1-0 win over Switzerland last month.

Their neighbours, Belarus, rebounded from last week's defeat by Poland to beatArmenia 2-1 in their Group Five qualifier.

The Dynamo Kiev midfielder Alexander Khatskevich gave Belarus the lead in the 23rd minute when he headed home a Maxim Romashchenko's high cross. Just 11 minutes later, Khatskevich won another battle in the air and flicked a header to Nikolai Rindiuk, who beat the Armenian goalkeeper, Arutiun Abramian, from close range.

The defender Felix Khodjoyan pulled one back for Armenia in the 50th minute when he picked up the ball after a bad clearance by the Belarus defence and fired home from the edge of the penalty area. Belarus then withstood a late rally by the Armenians to secure their second victory from three matches. Armenia have now lost twice since holding Norway to a 0-0 draw in their opener qualifier last month.

The Czech Republic were held to a surprising goalless draw by Malta in a Group Three qualifier at the Ta'Qali stadium in Valletta. It meant the first points lost by the Czechs so far in their campaign in Northern Ireland's group and the first won by Malta. Both have played three matches.

The Czechs had an edge for most of the game, forcing eight corners in the first half to none by the Maltese. But the Maltese defenders, and their goalkeeper Mario Muscat in particular, repeatedly thwarted Czech attacks, mostly spearheaded by Jan Koller and Radek Bejbl.

The Czech cause was undermined when they were reduced to 10 men by the dismissal of Tomas Repka. He was sent off early in the second half for a second yellow card offence.

Malta threatened more in the second half after their Yugoslav coach, Josef Ilic, reshuffled his midfield and they were spurred on by Carmel Busuttil, who was making his 110th international appearance, and the Nigerian-born Chucks Nwoko.

In Wales' section, Group Five, a second-half goal by Milan's Andriy Shevchenko gave Ukraine a 1-0 victory over Norway in Oslo.

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