Albania beats Macedonia 2-1 in resumed Group G qualifier

SHKODRA, Albania (AP) " Resuming a day after play was suspended by rain, Bekim Balaj scored in the 89th minute Tuesday to give Albania a 2-1 win over Macedonia in a World Cup qualifying match.

Balaj scored with a header from a free kick as the teams played out the final 15 minutes of the Group G match.

"It was very difficult to play in two days, very difficult to bring players on the pitch with the proper intensity," Albania coach Giovanni de Biasi said. "Let's enjoy the victory as we are leading the group together with Italy and Spain."

The match was abandoned Monday after 75 minutes with the score 1-1. Armando Sadiku gave Albania the lead in the ninth minute and Ezdjan Alioski equalized in the 51st.

Alioski is also of Albanian origin.

"To me personally, it was very important to score the first goal for Macedonia, though it was against Albania," Alioski said. "I do not see against whom I am playing with. I am very happy for my first goal."

The match was being played at the newly-renovated stadium in Shkodra, 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Tirana.

Italy and Spain also have three points from their opening matches. Israel and Liechtenstein are also in the group.

"It is a very difficult group and we can't have illusions," di Biasi said. "But the most difficult games are with Macedonia, Israel and Liechtenstein."

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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