Euro 2024: Holders Italy begin title defence with win over Albania

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Holders Italy battled back for a hard-earned opening victory after Albania scored the fastest goal in a European Championship match.
Nedim Bajrami made history after just 23 seconds when he thrashed a strike into the top right corner after Federico Dimarco completely miscalculated at a throw-in, but Albania’s jubilation was not long-lasting.
The underdogs sat back but failed to stymie the Italians. Alessandro Bastoni headed home Lorenzo Pellegrini’s inswinging delivery after a clever short corner to level in the 11th minute, then Nicolo Barella smashed in from 20 yards to put Italy ahead five minutes later.

After that, Italy’s dominance increased and they entered half-time having had 72.2% of possession, with 13 shots to Albania’s four.
Italy continued to control the ball, but they did not have as much luck creating chances in the second half and were unable to extend their advantage.
Albania, though, were toothless and Italy strolled to their first victory of Euro 2024 without any real further concern.
Taking the early lead did little to help Albania’s fortunes in the long run. They were expected to sit back and they did exactly that, but Luciano Spalletti’s Italy clearly knew how to react.
Where Albania looked to crowd out Italy, their actions instead created pockets of space on the edge of the area for the Azzurri to exploit rather than attacking the congested box.
With Chelsea midfielder Jorginho and Juventus winger Federico Chiesa pulling the strings, the men in blue and white worked around Albania and carved out openings.
Italy could have scored more, but Albania goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha stopped their deficit from increasing. He expertly pushed a Davide Frattesi dink against the post and denied Gianluca Scamacca from close range to keep the score at 2-1.
Albania improved and were able to prevent Italy hitting the back of the net again, but the pre-match underdogs could not find a way back to level terms.
Their best chance of an equaliser came and went as Gianluigi Donnarumma saved a late Rey Manaj effort.



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