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Gjasula scores own goal then last-gasp equalizer for Albania in 2-2 draw with Croatia at Euro 2024

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HAMBURG, Germany (AP) — Albania substitute Klaus Gjasula had the rare experience of scoring for both teams Wednesday in an intense 2-2 draw with Croatia that could make it difficult for each to survive the group stage at Euro 2024.

The Croatian players were particularly disappointed with the result in Hamburg after Gjasula’s stoppage-time goal denied them a much-needed win after they lost 3-0 to Spain in their opening Group B match.

“My first minutes on the pitch were very, very difficult for me not only for the own goal but also other situations,” Gjasula said. “Then God wanted and gave me the opportunity to score. A very beautiful, historic day for me.”

In the first-ever competitive match between the two Balkan teams, Croatia tried to set the pace from the start, but it was Albania’s Qazim Laci who scored first, heading in a cross from the right flank in the 11th minute.

Andrej Kramaric equalized in the 74th minute before Gjasula’s own goal made it 2-1 for Croatia just two minutes later.

At that point, Croatia looked in control but a late surge by Albania changed everything once again as Gjasula redeemed himself by scoring with a low shot in the 95th minute.

It was a thrilling end-to-match that leaves both Croatia and Albania in a precarious situation in the group. Albania lost to defending champion Italy 2-1 in its first match.

The third-place Albanians, who are ahead of Croatia on goal difference, celebrated the most after the match, while Luka Modric and his teammates — semifinalists at the 2022 World Cup — looked disappointed as they applauded the Croatian fans.

“We would have been a lot happier if we hadn’t conceded the last goal. The situation would have been totally different,” Kramaric said. “We turned the match, and we should have won. But that’s football.”

The Volksparkstadion in Hamburg was split evenly between red-clad Albania fans and spectators in Croatia’s checkered shirt providing a loud and energetic atmosphere.

Fans in Croatia’s section set off flares repeatedly, despite warnings over the loudspeakers that it would result in disciplinary action.

Croatia struggled to create chances in the first half and could have faced a greater deficit but goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic blocked a shot from Kristjan Asllani and a header from Rey Manaj to keep it 1-0 at halftime.

The Croatians came out with more energy after the break and turned the match around in two minutes. Kramaric equalized with a shot just inside the post. And just moments later Gjasula was unlucky when Albania tried to clear the ball from the penalty area but it bounced off him and into the net for the fourth own goal of the tournament.

Albania coach Sylvinho said he was proud of his team’s performance. Albania is playing only its second European Championship and was considered unlikely to advance out of the group.

“It was amazing. I will remember this game all my life,” he said.

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Associated Press writer Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania, contributed to this report.

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AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024

By KARL RITTER
Associated Press

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