Armando Sadiku’s first-half header clinched Albania their maiden win at a major tournament and first against Romania in 68 years to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the Euro 2016 knockout stages.
Sadiku headed home two minutes before half-time to seal a famous Group A victory for Gianni De Biasi’s minnows that could see them progress as one of the best third-placed teams.
Romania, the first country to bow out of the tournament and who last lost to Albania in 1948, went in search of an equaliser in the second half but despite hitting a post through substitute Florin Andone, they rarely tested Albania goalkeeper Etrit Berisha.
Romania midfielder Nicolae Stanciu fired the game’s first chance over the crossbar in the third minute before another long-range effort from midfielder Ovidiu Hoban forced Albania goalkeeper Berisha into a nervous, fumbling save.
Albania defender Andi Lila escaped a yellow card, or worse, for an apparent elbow on Romania defender Alexandru Matel before Berisha did well soon after to block Romania striker Bogdan Stancu’s blistering volley.
Hoban was then on the receiving end of a reckless high tackle from midfielder Migjen Basha as Albania continued to tread close to the line. The aptly-named Basha was lucky to get away with just a booking.
Albania had to wait until the 20th minute for their first effort on target when Basha’s tame low shot from 30 yards was easily gathered by Romania goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu.
Albania carved out the move of the half three minutes later, but their first-ever European Championship goal somehow eluded them as left-back Ermir Lenjani fired first time over the crossbar from six yards in front of an open goal following Andi Lila’s excellent low right-wing cross.
Televsion replays later showed that Lenjani appeared to have been offside.
Midfielder Ledian Memushaj was denied at the near post by Tatarusanu 10 minutes before the break as Albania continued to grow in confidence and it was no surprise when they took the lead in the 43rd minute.
Memushaj sent over a teasing cross from the right that was missed by goalkeeper Tatarusanu and Sadiku pounced to head home from six yards to register Albania’s first goal of the tournament.
Romania substitute Gabriel Torje was sent on for the injured Denis Alibec early in the second half and Albania goalscorer Sadiku left the field to a standing ovation when he made way for a tactical switch that saw Bekim Balaj replace him.
Memushaj went close to doubling Albania’s lead with a thumping drive in the 63rd minute and Romania substitute Gabriel Torje flashed a shot wide five minutes later.
Romania went close to an equaliser with a superb move in the 76th minute that ended in substitute Andone crashing a rising shot against the woodwork but Albania refused to buckle as Anghel Iordanescu’s side began to press.
Torje fired a free-kick within striking distance against the wall and Stanciu blazed way off target after making space on the edge of the area deep in time added on.