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Hamsik's Slovakia one-two sends Russia reeling

by Jim Wirth

Marek Hamsik set up one and scored another as Jan Kozak's men slipped from their opponents' clutches, surviving a late siege to get three points

Marek Hamsik set up the first and scored the second as Slovakia shook off their opening-day disappointment, and handed sluggish Russia a finishing lesson in Group B.

An initial flurry of activity having been swatted away stern-faced by a solid-looking Russian defence, Slovakia were starting to creak ominously when Hamsik delivered a wondrous pass from midfield to Weiss; he took three quick touches, wrong-footing two Russian defenders, and swung a shot across Igor Akinfeev and inside the goalkeeper's left-hand post.

If that was hard on Russia, what happened next was harder, Hamsik receiving Weiss's short corner from the left and winging a powerful shot in off the upright. Half-time: 2-0. Slovakia's shots-on-goal count: two.

Two half-time changes retooled Russia into more outwardly aggressive side, Artem Dzyuba the sapper detailed with undermining Slovakia's defences. However, it was substute Denis Glushakov who headed in from Igor Shatov's cross to prompt a frenzied finale. Slovakia held on, but only just.

Man of the match: Marek Hamsik
Anyone doubting how to pronounce the Napoli playmaker's name need only listen to the Slovak fans, who rarely tired of singing it in Lille. Slovakia are not quite a one-man team, but the No17's ability to weight passes (as well as score goals) suggested time was passing much slower for him than for anyone else on the pitch. Ask our Player Barometer how good he is.

Russia's frustration
Faint-hearted Russian lip-readers will have done well to look away whenever the camera panned to Leonid Slutski, the national coach a great coiled spring of frustration as he sunk back into his seat to bemoan his side's cluster of imperfectly-executed shots. With a team that is not really set up to create that many chances, misses count double. However, the way they went at Slovakia at times hinted at a tigerish attacking outfit lurking somewhere behind their measured demeanour. They may be required to find it against Wales.

A different proposition
Watching Slovakia's loss to Wales in their opener, Jan Kozak’s men did not look the sort of side that could have beaten Spain 2-1 at home in qualifying and won 3-1 against (an admittedly experimental) Germany in a friendly in the run-up to this EURO. It was backs-to-the-wall defending at the end, but with the courage they displayed here and Hamsik's panache, they could yet go far.

Team reporters' views from Stade Pierre Mauroy

Richard van Poortvliet
Ultimately Russia were not good enough. There was little continuity in their attacks, while the defensive solidity which had been a feature of the match against England deserted them. Russia still have a chance of qualifying, but they will have to be a lot better against Wales in Toulouse.

Rastislav Hribik, Slovakia
With three new names in the squad following the Wales reverse – Tomas Hubocan at left-back, Viktor Pecovsky in defensive midfield and Ondrej Duda up front (not his usual position), Slovakia played carefully at the back and waited for their opportunities. Thanks to Hamsik, they came. It got a bit hectic late on, but credit due for holding on., 15 June 2016

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Slovakia 2-1 Russia
Euro-2016. Group stage - Group B
June 15, 2016
Lille. Stade Pierre Mauroy
Attendance: 38989
Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN)
Slovakia: Matus Kozacik, Peter Pekarik, Martin Skrtel (c), Jan Durica, Vladimir Weiss (Dusan Svento, 72), Ondrej Duda (Adam Nemec, 67), Tomas Hubocan, Marek Hamsik, Juraj Kucka, Robert Mak (Michal Duris, 80), Viktor Pecovsky
Coach: Jan Kozak
Russia: Igor Akinfeev, Igor Smolnikov, Sergei Ignashevich, Roman Neustadter (Denis Glushakov, 46), Aleksandr Kokorin (Roman Shirokov, 76), Fedor Smolov, Aleksandr Golovin (Pavel Mamaev, 46), Vasili Berezutski, Oleg Shatov,
Georgi Schennikov, Artem Dzyuba
Coach: Leonid Slutski
Goals: Weiss (32), Hamsik (45), Glushakov (80)
Yellow card: Durica (46)

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