A Tom Pugh goal wasn’t enough as Wales U21s fell to a 2-1 defeat away to Albania. However, there were plenty of positives from a match where manager Rob Page tried different formations and players in a new look U21 side.
Albania U21 2-1 Wales U21
- Sunday 9 June 2019
- Scorers: R Broja 48', 60' T Pugh 80'
Selman Stermasi Stadium, Tirana
Wales started the match with several regulars from the previous U21 Euro qualifying campaign, including captain Regan Poole, Rhys Norrington-Davies and Mark Harris. There was a also a return to the starting eleven for Jack Evans, playing his first football match in almost twelve months after recovering from cancer.
Rob Page’s side started the first half on the front foot under the sweltering Tirana heat. Wales held on to possession effectively in the Albanian half, forcing several corners and half chances for the attacking duo of Mark Harris and Nathan Broadhead. The best chance of the half came for attacking full back Cole DaSilva. A well worked move from the Welsh back line eventually found DaSilva in front of goal but his half volley flew over the crossbar.
Several changes were made for the second half with Page looking at his options ahead of the 2021 U21 Euro qualifying campaign, with Niall Huggins and Harry Clifton coming on for their first U21 appearances. Albania pounced out of the starting blocks in the second forty five and scored with their first chance of the match three minutes into the half. A defensive error for Wales gifted Roni Broja an opportunity in front of goal and the striker made no mistake in finding the back of the net past Kelland Absolom in his first U21 match.
Albania then doubled the lead with their second chance of the match. Broja once again found himself through on goal running in from the right-hand side and doubled his goal tally on the hour mark. Page made three further changes with Tom Pugh and Tom Price coming on for their first U21s match alongside Mo Touray. The increased intensity after the changes was apparent with ten minutes remaining as the threatening Aaron Lewis won a free kick on the right wing. The delivery by Regan Poole was met by the head of Pugh to score his first U21s goal.
Wales pushed for an equalizer in the final ten minutes with the best chance coming for Harry Clifton. The midfielder's glancing header landed just wide of the bar seconds before the referee blew for the final whistle.
Both sides will meet again on Tuesday 11 June at 14:00 (BST). Follow @Cymru on Twitter for updates throughout the match.
1. Kellan Absolom, 2. Aaron Lewis, 3. Cole DaSilva (19. Liam Cullen 80'), 4. Regan Poole ©, 6. Rhys Norrington-Davies, 16. Brandon Cooper, 8. Robbie Burton (20. Tom Price 60'), 15. Jack Evans (7. Harry Clifton 46'), 9. Mark Harris (14. Mo Touray 60'), 10. Nathan Broadhead (17. Tom Pugh 60'), 11. Alex Babos (21. Niall Huggins 46')
Subs not used: 12. George Ratcliffe, 5. Ben Cabango 13. Dan Mooney, 18. Keiran Evans