Albanian strikers score doubles in Russia, Romania

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 31, 2016 16:54

Story Highlights

  • Kosovo-born Albanian forward Azdren Llullaku scored another double last weekend to extend his lead as Romania's top scorer with 12 goals in 14 matches

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Bekim Balaj

Bekim Balaj

TIRANA, Oct. 31 – Albanian strikers at the Russian and Romanian top leagues shone last weekend when they scored doubles to help their teams keep their title hopes alive.

Albanian international Bekim Balaj, who has proved decisive with his goals in Albania’s first two World Cup qualifiers, scored a brace for his Terek Grozni in the Russian Premiere League to keep the Chechnya club forth, trailing leaders Spartak Moscow by seven points in the first 12 fixtures.

With six goals in eleven games, Bekim Balaj who joined Terek Grozni from Croatia’s Rijeka this season, is the second best scorer at the Russian premier league. Balaj was provided an assists for his second goal from his Albanian teammate, midfielder Odise Roshi.

Meanwhile, Kosovo-born Albanian forward Azdren Llullaku scored another double last weekend to extend his lead as Romania’s top scorer with 12 goals in 14 matches. The 28-year-old striker, helped his newly promoted Gaz Metan climb to third at the Romanian Liga 1.

Llullaku, who grew up as a professional player in Italy after fleeing his war-torn Kosovo at the age of 12 in 2000 and made his senior debut with Albania in the Liechtenstein qualifier last October, could be a key player for Albania’s remaining qualifiers considering his current shape.

Elsewhere, in Italy, where several Albanian internationals play, goalkeeper Etrit Berisha helped Atalanta win 3-0 at home against Genoa while Albanian midfielder Ledian Memushaj lost a golden opportunity to score against AC Milan.

Albanian captain Mergim Mavraj was a regular starter even in last weekend’s Cologne’s easy 3-0 win over Hamburger at the German Bundesliga.

Striker Shkelzen Gazi also played a full 90 minutes with his Colorado Rapids in the first leg of the U.S. Major League play-off which the Rapids lost 1-0.

Shkelzen Gashi has been one of the best “Colorado Rapids players this year, helping his team qualify for MLS Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference with nine goals, including two beautiful long-range ones nominated for Goal of the Year. He has surprisingly not been called up by coach Gianni De Biasi in Albania’s last two World Cup qualifiers.

Albania will host Israel on Nov. 12 in a key qualifier for the national side’s further progress at the World Cup qualifiers following poor performance with group favorites Spain, a lucky late winner at home with Macedonia and a 2-0 victory against modest Liechtenstein in the first three group qualifiers.

Albania made a historic first ever appearance at a major tournament last June when they played at the Euro 2016.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 31, 2016 16:54