Slovakia collected the first win of their UEFA 2004™ qualifying campaign to go third in Group 7 thanks to a hard-fought 2-0 win against F.Y.R. Macedonia in Skopje.
Macedonia playmaker Mile Krstev was inspired early on but his incisive passing was wasted by the home forwards, who missed a series of chances in the opening exchanges. Artim Sakiri chested down a fine ball in the sixth minute but the striker's fierce volley was easily dealt with by Slovakian goalkeeper Miroslav König.
Fourteen minutes later König was lucky to see a long-range effort from Saso Krstev hit the post, but the visitors took the lead on the half-hour mark against the run of play when Vladimír Janocko applied speed and bend to a free-kick and the onrushing Martin Petráš headed into the net from close range to silence the noisy home crowd.
Macedonian dominance continued at the start of the second half but the home team were let down by poor last touches and Sakiri failed to score with 15 minutes to go when he only had König to beat. Slovakia made the points safe with just seconds left on the clock, Luboš Reiter gathering a poor pass from Goce Sedloski to steer past the despairing Petar Milosevski.
Slovakia coach Ladislav Jurkemik was predictably delighted by the result. "It was a good match," he said. "The Macedonians were strong opponents. They had a lot of chances but we remained organised in defence. Our keeper was brilliant."
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