Middlesbrough FC forward Szilárd Nemeth boosted Slovakia's UEFA EURO 2004™ qualification hopes when he scored twice in a 4-0 home victory against Liechtenstein in Group 7 in Trnava tonight.
The victory was Slovakia's second of the section following their 2-0 success against F.Y.R Macedonia on Saturday and positioned Ladislav Jurkemik’s side on six points behind front pair Turkey and England. Striker Róbert Vittek missed out through suspension but Vladimír Janocko, captain Miroslav Karhan and Nemeth all started after recovering from knocks.
Liechtenstein might have given England the odd fright in their 2-0 defeat by Sven-Göran Eriksson's side at the weekend but on tonight’s evidence they exhausted their reserves in Vaduz. The visitors, comprising professional bankers, electricians, students and wine producers, were restricted to a smattering of difficult chances from tight angles and failed to fashion any meaningful opportunities.
Despite a sluggish start, striker Luboš Reiter gave Slovakia the lead just before the twenty-minute mark, turning in a cross from FK Austria Wien's Janocko with a sure touch from a central position inside the box.
Held in check
The home team, however, were mistaken if they thought the breakthrough would open the floodgates; Liechtenstein closed ranks and successfully held their opponents in check for the remainder of the half.
Nemeth on target
Jurkemik's team-talk clearly hit the right notes at half-time as Slovakia were a more formidable opponent after the break, going close soon after the re-start and doubling the advantage in the 51st minute when Nemeth, a second-half substitute for Jozef Kozlej, slammed in.
From there on Liechtenstein hardly had a look-in and Nemeth, who has underlined his potential at Middlesbrough this season, scored again ten minutes later, tucking away a pinpoint centre from Karhan.
By that stage the game was finished but there was still time for Janocko to have the final word with a fourth goal in added time, squeezing a shot past hapless Liechtenstein goalkeeper Peter Jehle.