Albania 1 (Salihi 67)
Albania moved to within a point of FIFA World Cup Group E leaders Switzerland, as a neat Hamdi Salihi strike earned them a 1-0 win on a bitterly cold evening in Oslo.
The Jiangsu Sainty forward, 29, found the top corner of the net from the edge of the box on 67 minutes after some slack Norwegian defending, with Egil Olsen’s men having struggled to create clear-cut chances aganst a determined Albanian rearguard.
Norway might still have salvaged something from the game. Mohammed Abdellaoue found an opening with 13 minutes left, but Albania goalkeeper Etrit Berisha produced a fine save. While Astrit Lila was sent off late on for a foul on Abdellaoue, there was no time for the home side to take advantage.
Slovenia 1 (Novakovic 34)
Iceland 2 (Sigurdsson 55, 78)
Gylfi Sigurdsson scored both goals to sink Slovenia and keep Iceland’s hopes of World Cup qualification alive. Sigurdsson struck the winner in the 78th minute with a right-foot shot from the centre of the penalty box after being played in by former Chelsea veteran Eidur Gudjohnsen.
Gudjohnsen, 34, had been on the pitch just two minutes after coming off the bench to replace Emil Hallfredsson. The three points take Iceland on to nine in Group E and they were a just reward for their perseverance after a niggly match littered with fouls. Milivoje Novakovic, Slovenia’s 33-year-old spearhead who plies his trade in Japan’s J League with Omiya Ardija, had put the hosts ahead in the first half.
Novakovic, who had earlier been shown the yellow card for a foul, sent a left-foot shot from the right side of the box sailing into the top left corner. Sigurdsson, however, demonstrated his reputation as a dead-ball specialist when he blasted a right-foot shot into the top corner for a 55th-minute equaliser after Birkir Bjarnason had been fouled on the edge of the penalty area.
Sigurdsson struck the winner in the 78th minute with a right-foot shot from the centre of the penalty box after being played in by former Chelsea veteran Eidur Gudjohnsen. Slovenia pressed for the winner in a hectic second half, forcing a string of corners, but they could not make their territorial dominance pay. Instead it was Iceland who took advantage with Sigurdsson’s winner 12 minutes from full-time.
Cyprus pulled off a shock result holding Switzerland to a goal-less draw in Nicosia on Saturday afternoon. With Cyprus in economic turmoil, the stadium in its capital Nicosia was almost empty.
Swiss forward Xherdan Shaqiri was charitable to his hosts in dragging a 15th-minute shot wide — and then missed a glaring chance when he couldn’t connect with the ball from almost on the goal line around the half-hour mark. Innocent Emeghara and Valentin Stocker also spurned clear chances in a hectic spell.
Stocker directed his shot wide in the 79th when goalkeeper Antonis Georgallides was out of position. For Cyprus, Constantinos Makrides struck the post with a curling 33rd-minute shot. Switzerland remained unbeaten and leads by two points from Albania and Iceland midway through the 10-match program.
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