Fabian Schär’s fifth-minute goal and some late heroics from Yann Sommer earned the Swiss victory after a first-half red card. Switzerland made a winning start to UEFA EURO 2016 but the ten men of Albania gave them an almighty scare in the teams’ first Group A outing. The match was only five minutes old when the Nati capped a bright start with the only goal, Fabian Schär rising to head in Xherdan Shaqiri’s corner. The margin of victory looked set to be greater when Lorik Cana received a second yellow card nine minutes before half-time, but Albania dug in well and by the final whistle the Swiss were hanging on. Albania will look back on several missed chances to cap their finals debut in style, most notably for Armando Sadiku.
He squandered a golden opportunity before Cana’s dismissal when a trademark Elseid Hysaj long ball sent him one-on-one with Yann Sommer. The keeper repeated the feat in the closing stages as Albania, spirited along by their noisy fans, threw everything at Switzerland. Then, with three minutes left, came the best chance of all but Shkëlzen Gashi, with time and space, could not find a way past Sommer. Switzerland got the win they so desired. They have yet to make it through the group stage in three finals appearances. After holding on here, they may not get a better opportunity. For the first time in a EURO match, brothers lined up against each other. Gianni De Biasi added more spice by starting Taulant Xhaka on the right rather than his usual central role, placing him in direct opposition to younger brother Granit. There was certainly added needle, with extra effort tangible whenever they clashed – like most siblings. But love conquered all with a firm embrace at full time: a nice end for their torn parents.
Substitute Hal Robson-Kanu applied the finishing touch after an Aaron Ramsey assist to give Wales victory against Slovakia on their UEFA EURO finals debut on Saturday. Wales had been grateful to Ben Davies for his crucial early goalline clearance after Marek Hamšík’s superb solo run. And not long afterwards Jonathan Williams, preferred up front to Robson-Kanu, was fouled on the edge of the box and Gareth Bale drilled in a dipping free-kick to give his team a tenth-minute lead. Now the pressure was on Danny Ward, winning only his third cap in the Wales goal due to Wayne Hennessey’s late back injury. For an hour Ward was kept well protected and at the other end Matúš Kozá?ik did well to scoop away a Bale header. But Slovakia went for a double attacking change either side of the hour mark by introducing Adam Nemec and Ondrej Duda, who promptly turned in Róbert Mak’s pass. However, another substitute ensured it was Wales who took the points, despite Nemec hitting the post with four minutes left.
England once again failed to start a major tournament with victory as Vasili Berezutski’s stoppage-time header gave Russia a draw they barely deserved in the Stade Velodrome. Roy Hodgson’s side were dominant and fully merited the lead given to them when Eric Dier crashed a 20-yard free-kick high past keeper Igor Akinfeev with 17 minutes left. Hodgson then removed man of the match Wayne Rooney, who had earlier seen a shot pushed superbly on to the post by Akinfeev, and replaced him with Jack Wilshere to preserve England’s advantage. It was a move that failed when Russia snatched a point – and extended England’s record of never starting a European Championship with a win – two minutes into four minutes of stoppage time, Berezutski soaring above Danny Rose at the far post to send Georgi Schennikov’s header looping over keeper Joe Hart.
The final whistle was the cue for more of the violence that has marred the build-up to this fixture, as Russian fans appeared to charge at English supporters behind the goal where Berezutski scored.