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banner Saturday, 24 March, 2001, 19:01 GMT
Klose call as Germans beat Albania
Albanian Geri Cip challenges Marco Bode
Albanian Geri Cip challenges German player Marco Bode
Germany 2-1 Albania

German substitute Miroslav Klose scored a controversial winner two minutes from time to give England's World Cup rivals a fortunate 2-1 win over Albania.

On his debut, Klose dived in at the far post to head into an empty net following Marco Rehmer's right-wing cross in Leverkusen.

But it appeared that three German players - including Klose - were in offside positions when the ball was played through to Rehmer.

Yet the goal was allowed to stand by Italian referee Graciano Cesari and Germany now go five points clear of England at the top of group nine, taking maximum points from their opening three games.

Rudi Voller's out-of-sorts side had been forced onto the back-foot by an impressive Albanian side despite taking the lead after a goalless first-half.

Relieved Rudi Voeller
German boss Rudi Voeller shows his relief

Sebastian Deisler broke the deadlock five minutes after the break with a speculative 25-yard strike.

Deisler, who hit the bar with a deflected cross in the opening minutes, connected well with his shot.

But Albanian keeper Foto Strakosha flapped wildly at the ball at his near post, allowing the ball to nestle in the left corner.

That should have been just the fillip Germany were looking for after a tame first half where they struggled to impose themselves on the game.

But instead of going on to put the Albanians to the sword, the home side looked nervous and paid the penalty when Albania - England's opponents in Tirana on Wednesday - forced an equaliser.

The strike from Bledar Kola after 66 minutes was every bit as exquisite as Deisler's earlier effort.

Cruel blow

Albania had sounded out a warning moments before when Murati forced Oliver Khan to tip over superbly following a well-worked attack - but it was not heeded.

Picking up a header from former Kaiserslautern striker Igli Tare, AEK Athens midfielder Kola drilled in a left-footed half-volley from 25 yards that bounced once on its way into the bottom right corner.

It was no more than Albania deserved and they looked set to hold out for an unexpected draw.

The visitors survived a scare in the 84th minute when the referee appeared to point to the spot as Klose, a 73rd-minute replacement for Oliver Neuville, went down inside the box.

But the official merely booked Klose for diving and Albania breathed again.

The winner four minutes later, therefore, was even more difficult to swallow as Albania, pushing up for what they though was a blatant offside, were punished.

Germany: Oliver Kahn, Carsten Ramelow, Jens Nowotny, Christian Woerns, Sebastian Deisler, Dietmar Hamann, Jens Jeremies, Marco Bode, Mehmet Scholl, Oliver Neuville, Oliver Bierhoff.

Albania: Foto Strakosha, Rudi Vata, Arian Xhumba, Geri Cipo, Altin Lala, Besnik Hasi, Bledar Kola, Edvin Murati, Fatmir Vata, Alban Bushi, Igli Tare.

Referee: Graciano Cesari (Italy)

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