International Friendlies
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Albania 1-0 Wales: Humbling defeat for Giggs as Gunter breaks caps record

Chris Gunter
Chris Gunter made his Wales debut in a 2-2 draw against New Zealand in 2007

Wales suffered an embarrassing 1-0 friendly defeat in Albania to take the shine off Chris Gunter's record-breaking 93rd appearance.

Gunter captained his country for only the second time as he surpassed Neville Southall's 92 caps, but the visitors failed to produce a performance to match his achievement.

A much-changed and youthful Wales side squandered a host of chances to take the lead against the hosts, ranked 60th in the world and smarting from a 4-0 home thrashing by Scotland on Saturday.

Albania broke the deadlock in the second half with their first shot on target and only their third goal in nine matches, as Bekim Balaj struck with a penalty after Harry Wilson brought down Taulant Xhaka.

It was a particularly galling concession for Wales, as Xhaka was fortunate to have avoided a red card in the first half after headbutting David Brooks.

Wales were then denied a clear penalty of their own when Wilson was scythed down by Migjen Basha and, although such decisions ultimately mean little in a friendly fixture, a fifth defeat from his first nine matches in charge will concern Wales manager Ryan Giggs.

Gunter's moment of history

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Ryan Giggs: 'We got what we deserved' in Albania defeat, says Wales boss

A dependable and unfussy full-back, Gunter has spent much of his career away from the limelight. But despite his typically modest protestations, this match was all about him.

From his debut as a 17-year-old to a staggering sequence of 63 consecutive starts from 2010 to September this year, Gunter has become as firm a Welsh football establishment as the red shirt.

It was fitting too that his record-breaking appearance should come thousands of miles from home, against the kind of unglamorous opponents Wales have faced for the majority of the 29-year-old's international career.

Such is the Reading right-back's standing among Wales' fans that 1,800 of them made the long journey to the tiny Elbasan Arena, almost outnumbering the home support.

The travelling contingent cheered Gunter's every touch, sang his name and even had the tantalising prospect of seeing him score his first international goal shortly before half-time - only for his left-footed strike to roll harmlessly towards home goalkeeper Etrit Berisha.

The match did not get much better for Gunter and his team-mates as they slumped to a defeat which was as lacklustre as it was unexpected.

Wales fans with a fondness for self-deprecating humour may even suggest that a defeat of this nature was almost fitting in its own, perverse kind of way.

Gunter has endured many lows with Wales as well as the searing highs, as a part of teams which languished outside the top 100 in the world rankings, as well as an important member of the side which reached the Euro 2016 semi-finals.

But Wales' defeat against Albania was no way to honour such a loyal servant who, while reluctant to receive adulation, always insists the result is most important and will therefore be thoroughly disheartened by this display.

Harry Wilson on the ball
Harry Wilson has made 18 appearances this season

Wales' experiment falls flat

Following Friday's Nations League defeat against Denmark, Giggs took this friendly as an opportunity to experiment and made eight changes to his team, including two debutants.

Anderlecht centre-back James Lawrence, a surprise call-up to the squad earlier this month, passed well out of defence, while winger Daniel James buzzed about energetically but struggled to replicate his Swansea City form on Wales' left flank.

As is often the case in friendly matches, there was a lack of urgency for large periods during this match, though Wales did link play promisingly in attack through Wilson and Brooks.

The visitors, however, were unable to convert attractive approach play into a lead, and they fell behind when Albania registered their first shot on goal.

Giggs turned to his big guns, Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, in an attempt to wrestle the tie back in Wales' favour, though neither made much of an impact.

There were further debuts with the introductions of Rabbi Matondo and Kieron Freeman but, even though this was a friendly, such a disjointed display and humiliating result will leave Giggs with much to ponder before Wales return to action in March.

Line-ups

Albania

  • 1Berisha
  • 4Hysaj
  • 6Ismajli
  • 15Mavraj
  • 5Veseli
  • 8Basha
  • 22Uzuni
  • 2LilaBooked at 30minsSubstituted forMemushajat 59'minutes
  • 14XhakaBooked at 36mins
  • 7GrezdaSubstituted forLilajat 69'minutes
  • 19Balaj

Substitutes

  • 3Kaja
  • 9Memushaj
  • 11Vrioni
  • 12Kastrati
  • 13Lilaj
  • 17Ademi
  • 18Dermaku
  • 20Kace
  • 21Gavazaj
  • 23Strakosha

Wales

  • 12Ward
  • 14RobertsSubstituted forFreemanat 78'minutes
  • 4Lockyer
  • 3Lawrence
  • 2GunterBooked at 52mins
  • 8KingBooked at 43mins
  • 7AllenSubstituted forRamseyat 56'minutes
  • 18WilsonBooked at 58mins
  • 19BrooksSubstituted forBaleat 59'minutesBooked at 84mins
  • 20JamesSubstituted forWoodburnat 56'minutes
  • 9VokesSubstituted forMatondoat 78'minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Hennessey
  • 5Freeman
  • 6Williams
  • 10Ramsey
  • 11Bale
  • 13Thomas
  • 15Roberts
  • 16Matondo
  • 17Lawrence
  • 21Davies
  • 22Woodburn

Match Stats

Home TeamAlbaniaAway TeamWales
Possession
Home44%
Away56%
Shots
Home6
Away17
Shots on Target
Home2
Away4
Corners
Home1
Away9
Fouls
Home21
Away12

Live Text

Match ends, Albania 1, Wales 0.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Albania 1, Wales 0.

Attempt blocked. Gareth Bale (Wales) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

Gareth Bale (Wales) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Migjen Basha (Albania).

Attempt saved. Taulant Xhaka (Albania) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Ledian Memushaj.

Offside, Albania. Elseid Hysaj tries a through ball, but Bekim Balaj is caught offside.

Harry Wilson (Wales) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Taulant Xhaka (Albania).

Corner, Wales. Conceded by Mergim Mavraj.

Jamie Lawrence (Wales) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Bekim Balaj (Albania).

Attempt saved. Ben Woodburn (Wales) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Aaron Ramsey.

Kieron Freeman (Wales) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Myrto Uzuni (Albania).

Hand ball by Bekim Balaj (Albania).

Booking

Gareth Bale (Wales) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Gareth Bale (Wales).

Taulant Xhaka (Albania) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Rabbi Matondo (Wales) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Migjen Basha (Albania).

Corner, Wales. Conceded by Elseid Hysaj.

Rabbi Matondo (Wales) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Migjen Basha (Albania).

Substitution

Substitution, Wales. Kieron Freeman replaces Connor Roberts.

Substitution

Substitution, Wales. Rabbi Matondo replaces Sam Vokes.

Attempt missed. Sabien Lilaj (Albania) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Myrto Uzuni.

Attempt blocked. Gareth Bale (Wales) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

Attempt blocked. Andy King (Wales) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

Attempt blocked. Gareth Bale (Wales) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Tom Lockyer with a headed pass.

Corner, Wales. Conceded by Elseid Hysaj.

Attempt missed. Myrto Uzuni (Albania) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Ledian Memushaj.

Connor Roberts (Wales) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Myrto Uzuni (Albania).

Aaron Ramsey (Wales) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Ledian Memushaj (Albania).

Sam Vokes (Wales) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Ardian Ismajli (Albania).

Substitution

Substitution, Albania. Sabien Lilaj replaces Eros Grezda.

Corner, Wales. Conceded by Migjen Basha.

goal

Scores, Results & Fixtures

Tuesday 20th November 2018

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