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Slovakia beat Russia 2-1 as Marek Hamsik lights up Lille

Marek Hamsik was the star of the show as Slovakia beat Russia 2-1 in Lille to leapfrog England in Group B.

A raking cross-field pass from Hamsik picked out Vladimir Weiss after 32 minutes, who cut inside before picking out the far corner to open the scoring.

And it was Hamsik who repeated the trick shortly before half-time, cutting back on to his right foot and bending a beautiful shot in off the far post.

A header from substitute Denis Glushakov pulled one back for Russia with 10 minutes remaining, but it was too little too late from Leonid Slutsky's lacklustre side.

A weather forecast predicting heavy rain meant that the roof over the Stade Piere Mauroy was closed a couple of hours before kick-off in Lille, which enhanced an already lively atmosphere.

But neither set of supporters had much to cheer in an evenly balanced but uneventful opening half an hour that saw Slovakia start the brighter but Russia go the closest with a Fedor Smolov shot that brushed the outside of the post on its way wide.

However, the game turned on its head when Hamsik -- picking up the ball in the right-back position -- spotted Weiss making a run off his left flank and swept a pass over the top to send the pacey wide man clear.

Weiss -- showing impressive composure to resist a shot with his left foot from a difficult angle -- cut back on to his right to wrong-foot the two covering defenders and angled his shot around Igor Akinfeev into the far corner.

It was a wonderful team goal, beautifully created and expertly finished, but Hamsik had something even more special up his sleeve before the break.

Taking advantage of some slack Russian defending, the Napoli midfielder latched on to a short corner on the edge of the area before again wrong-footing the covering defenders with a sudden change of direction and unleashing a powerful curling strike that went in off the inside of the far post to make it 2-0.

Russia manager Slutsky had named an unchanged starting XI from the team who snatched a 1-1 draw against England on Saturday.

But the shock of the first-half forced Slutsky into making two changes at the break, replacing Roman Neustadter and Aleksandr Golovin with Pavel Mamaev and Denis Glushakov as he sought to try and offer lone bright spark Artem Dzyuba some assistance.

Russia were improved after the interval, but continued to struggle to support their impressive front man. A blocked effort by Smolov was the best that the hosts of the next World Cup could muster until the 80th minute when Oleg Shatov's clipped cross was dispatched by substitute Glushakov to set up a grandstand final 10 minutes.

The result leaves Russia likely to need a win from their final group game against Wales to avoid elimination, while Slovakia have a good chance of progressing and could effectively ensure their passage to the knockout stages with a positive result against England in their third game of the tournament.

espnfc.com, 15 June 2016

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