Slovakia kept their Euro 2016 hopes alive with a 2-1 win over Russia on Wednesday.
Russia’s off-field woes were nearly made even worse on field when Slovakia’s Marek Hamsik rifled his shot over the bar in the 9th minute.
It was all Russia from that moment as they dominated both possession and territory as Slovakia were happy to sit back and defend deep. Russia almost made them pay but Artem Dzuyba and Fedor Smolov both wasted chances to open the scoring in Lille.
Hamsik then masterminded a rare attack and his excellently weighted long ball sent Vladimir Weiss clear in 32nd minute.
Weiss controlled neatly inside the Russian box as he sent two defenders the wrong way before curling his effort past Akinfeev.
Akinfeev was helpless just a few minutes later as Hamsik doubled his side’s lead. The Russian defence switched off expecting a long corner but Hamsik slammed home his shot after a quickly taken set piece.
Two goals down at the break, also the first time they have conceded two in their last 35 competitive matches, Russia on the brink at Euro 2016.
The second half began much like the first as Slovakia defended deep before attacking on the counter in numbers. This time the chance fell to Robert Mak but he was unable to end the match as Akinfeev tapped his effort over the bar with 37 minutes to play.
In the 57th minute Oleg Shatov failed to keep his shot on target in a rare Russian visit into the Slovakia area. Indeed it was Russia’s first effort at goal since the 28th minute.
Neither side could create any consistency in their build up play but it was Russia who were marginally improving as the match wore on.
Smolov added another miss to his name after failing to beat the defence in the 66th minute. His low shot well blocked by Duric for Slovakia.
By the 70th minute the only place Russia were behind was on the scoreboard as they failed to make more of their possession.
The clock continued to tick away as Slovakia hustled their opponents and reduced Russia to speculative long range efforts until the 80th minute.
Denis Glushakov heading his side back into the contest and setting up a frantic final 10 minutes. After five minutes of pressure and almost of all the ball, Glushakov failed to get the equaliser as he blasted wide.
Dzuyba had a good chance to secure a point for Russia but a wall of defenders managed to block his shot with 90 minutes played.
Slovakia survived the three minutes of stoppage time and celebrated a hard-fought win.
The win boosts Slovakia up to second on the log with 3 points as Russia drop to fourth with 1 point from 2 games. Wales and England will face each other on Thursday at 15:00.
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