Euro 2024: Italy begins title defence with victory over Albania

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 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 in Dortmund was not long-lasting.

The underdogs sat back but failed to checkmate 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 had only scored one major tournament goal before Saturday, but Bajrami’s was a special one to provide their second.

It broke a record which has stood for 20 years, beating the 67 seconds it took Dmitri Kirichenko to score for Russia against Greece in Euro 2004.

Sylvinho’s side are in a tough group and progressing to a first knockout stage looks unlikely.

Whether or not they find a path out of the group, this year’s tournament will hold a special place in Albanian fans’ hearts for years to come, and Bajrami’s record will take some beating.

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