Bekim Balaj volleyed a sensational winner as the visitors began UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying with a historic win against an under-strength Portugal.
Expectations were confounded in Aveiro as Albania stunned an under-strength Portugal side 1-0 to send shockwaves through UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group I.
Missing Cristiano Ronaldo among other first-choice regulars, Portugal struggled to find their rhythm and paid the price when Bekim Balaj volleyed in shortly after the restart. Debutant Ricardo Horta struck the crossbar at the other end, but that was as close as the hosts came to salvaging a point.
Portugal dominated the game from the start yet were unable to create any real danger until the 20th minute, when Vieirinha headed a João Moutinho free-kick straight at Etrit Berisha. Pepe then missed the target from another header with half an hour gone, and Nani had a shot deflected out for a corner, before Pepe nodded the last chance of the half wide of a post.
If that spelt frustration for the 22,000 fans at the Estádio Municipal de Aveiro, worse was to come on 52 minutes when Giovanni de Biasi’s Albania went ahead. The visitors had been restricted to counterattacks in the opening period but went forward after the break and duly took the lead. Odise Roshi crossed from the right and Balaj did the rest with a spectacular volley.
The Portuguese reacted with Nani, Ricardo Costa and Fábio Coentrão all going close, while substitute Horta came on for his maiden cap and fired against the bar with 21 minutes remaining. However, Paulo Bento’s men were unable to improve on that and will need to respond against Denmark on 14 October, three days after Albania tackle the Scandinavian side.