AARON RAMSEY survived an injury scare but the Wales star could not inspire a winning send off before the Euros in a drab affair.
The Juventus midfielder went down following a collision with Ardian Ismajli on just his second start for the Dragons since he scored twice to send his country to the Euros against Hungary in November 2019.
Injury-hit Rambo – a Euro 2016 star on Wales’ glorious run to the semi-finals and in the Team of the Tournament – played on to get 60 minutes under his belt just seven days before the Group A opener with Switzerland in Baku.
But on this evidence it is clear Ramsey will need to be nursed through the finals this month.
This disjointed display drew criticism from ex-Wales captain Kevin Ratcliffe, who said at half-time: “It’s not good enough. We look lost.”
Ramsey was used in an unfamiliar false nine role and failed to make any real impact.
That will pose a selection headache for boss Robert Page, who has been using Harry Wilson in that role previously.
And Wales looked a much better attacking threat when Kieffer Moore was introduced at half-time as Page, who continues to stand in for absent manager Ryan Giggs, changed his tactics.
The big Cardiff hitman won a header with his first contribution and that lifted the Welsh faithful.
Ramsey briefly switched back to his accustomed playmaker position and Wales started to pin Albania back but could not find the vital breakthrough.
In truth, this performance will not leave the Swiss, Turkey or Italy quaking in their boots but an omen for the Dragons could be even Chris Coleman’s side lost 3-0 to Sweden in their final warm-up before the 2016 finals.
However, back then, Coleman had a settled team and formation heading into the finals while there are question marks over the current side with doubts over players’ fitness.
While there were concerns when Ramsey hit the deck, Page also had his hands on his head midway through the first half amid a fitness worry over Ethan Ampadu.
The versatile Chelsea ace, who can play in both defence and midfield, was making his first appearance since April 17 after picking up a pelvic injury on loan at Sheffield United.
But Page was visibly concerned when Ampadu went down following Bekim Balaj’s robust challenge.
Ampadu managed to get back to his feet – much to the relief of the Wales bench.
Page will be delighted Ramsey, Ampadu, Allen and Davies all got valuable game time before they depart for Azerbaijan on Monday but how many of the quartet can start against the Swiss remains a major issue.
Wales were handed a pre-match boost when Neco Williams avoided a one-match suspension.
The Liverpool defender was controversially sent off for handball in the 3-0 friendly defeat to France following a lengthy VAR check.
But the Welsh FA contacted Fifa and Uefa and Williams was given the green light to play just hours before kick-off because Europe’s governing body does not “legislate for sanctions related to friendly matches”.
That was a boost to Wales as Page had been keen to give Williams, 20, valuable match minutes ahead of the Euros opener.
The rave tune ‘Zombie Nation’ boomed out before kick-off as Welsh fans returned for the first time since Wales qualified for this month’s finals in November 2019.
Then there was a stirring rendition of the Welsh national anthem Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau before both teams took the knee.
There was no repeat of the boos that greeted England in the midweek international with Austria.
Gareth Bale started on the bench and it was not long before Wales’ hard core support, known as ‘The Red Wall’, piped up with their infamous ‘Wales, Golf, Madrid’ chant.
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Wales started slow and it was Albania who had the best chance of a poor opening 45 minutes.
Rey Manaj got the better of Chris Mepham but the Barcelona B striker fired high over the crossbar in a major let-off for Wales.
David Brooks and Manaj were cautioned after squaring up to each other.
Wales created little in the final third but Bournemouth attacker Brooks provided a spark when his cross from the left found Ramsey, whose effort flew over the bar.
Rhys Norrington-Davies was shown a yellow card for pushing Manaj into 75-year-old Albanian manager Edoardo Reja as both men were knocked to the ground.
Then Page decided an hour was enough minutes in the bank for returning trio of senior stars Ramsey, Allen and Davies with the Swiss next up.
The fact that Williams’ rasping drive in the 73rd minute was the first shot on target says it all about this forgettable match.
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