Euro 2016 Report: Russia 1 - 2 Slovakia

Thu, Jun 16 2016

Hamsik created one goal and scored the other as Slovakia defeated Russia. Credit: Al Robinson

Slovakia bounced back from their opening game defeat to Wales with a 2-1 victory over Russia in Lille – a result which leaves Leonid Slutsky's side with just one point from two games and on the brink of elimination from Euro 2016.
Goals from Vladimir Weiss and Marek Hamsik ensured that an 80th minute goal from Russian substitute Denis Glushakov would be in vain, guaranteeing the Slovaks all three points to draw them level with Wales in Group B for at least one night, with England and Wales set to meet on Thursday in Lens.
Russia earned a last gasp point from their first game of the tournament, captain Vasili Berezutski's 90th minute header breaking English hearts in Marseille as the Golden Eagles drew 1-1 with Roy Hodgson's Three Lions. That seemed to set up the Russians nicely for this game, but Slovakia had other ideas.
Ján Kozák's men are the first Slovakian side to qualify for a European Championships since the country became independent and have now given themselves a great chance of getting out of the group. Russia, meanwhile, still have the slightest chance of qualifying but will certainly need to beat Wales on Monday in Toulouse.
In terms of this game, the statistics were always in favour of the Slovaks: they haven't lost back-to-back games since October 2013. Yet that record looked like it would come to an end in the opening half hour as Russia took control of the tie.
Artyom Dzyuba probably should have put his side in the lead in the 23rd minute when he headed straight at Slovak 'keeper Matus Kozacik from close range.
Five minutes later, Fyodor Smolov, teed up by Dzyuba, let rip from distance and saw his effort fly just wide of the post, with Kozacik seemingly beaten. Slutsky's reaction was telling as he held his head in his hands in disbelief.
Then, against the run of play, Russia fell behind in the 32nd minute. A Hamsik ball over the top sent Weiss clear down the left side of the penalty area, but he still had it all to do with two Russian defenders in front of him.
Weiss was allowed to check back inside onto his right foot far too easily in the circumstances and was able to blast beyond the outstretched leg of Igor Smolnikov and the exposed Igor Akinfeev – starting his 25th consecutive international – to give Slovakia the lead.
One goal down going into the break wouldn't have been so bad for the Russians, but they totally switched off after conceding a corner just before the interval and paid the price. 
Hamsik, far and away the best player on the pitch throughout, collected a short corner from Weiss, proceeded into the penalty area, cut back inside onto his right foot – selling Oleg Shatov a dummy he can never return in the process – before unleashing an unstoppable shot off the far post and into the net.
It was a goal that knocked the stuffing out of Russia. With Hamsik in irresistible form, Slovakia were always dangerous – Akinfeev needing to be sharp to keep out Robert Mak in the 53rd minute – while being defensively resilient. Smolov, Glushakov and Aleksandr Kokorin all saw shots blocked as they chased for a way back into the game.
Russia did claw one goal back in the 80th minute when substitute Glushakov was on hand to head home a cutback from Shatov, but it would prove to be too little too late for the Russians on the night – and possibly for their entire tournament.
Russia: Igor Akinfeev; Igor Smolnikov, Sergei Ignashevich, Vasili Berezutski, Georgi Shchennikov; Aleksandr Kokorin (Roman Shirokov, 75), Aleksandr Golovin (Pavel Mamaev, HT), Roman Neustadter (Denis Glushakov, HT), Fyodor Smolov; Oleg Shatov;  Artyom Dzyuba.
Subs not used: Yuri Lodygin (GK), Guilherme Marinato (GK), Dmitri Kombarov, Oleg Ivanov, Aleksei Berezutski, Aleksandr Samedov, Roman Shishkin, Dmitri Torbinski, Artur Yusupov.
Slovakia: Matus Kozacik; Peter Pekarik, Jan Durica, Martin Skrtel, Tomas Hubocan; Robert Mak (Michal Duris, 80), Juraj Kucka, Viktor Pecovsky, Marek Hamsik, Vladimir Weiss (Dusan Svento, 72); Ondrej Duda (Adam Nemec, 67).
Subs not used: Jan Mucha (GK), Jan Novota (GK), Patrik Hrosovsky, Norbert Gyomber, Jan Gregus, Kornel Salata, Stanislav Sestak, Milan Skriniar, Miroslav Stoch.
Bookings: J. Durica (46).
Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN).
Attendance: 49,822.
Extratime Man of the Match: Marek Hamsik (Slovakia).