Russia 1-2 Slovakia
Marek Hamšík set up one and scored another as Ján Kozák's men slipped from their opponents' clutches, surviving a late siege to get three points.
Article top media content
- Show-stopping ball from Marek Hamšík sets Vladimír Weiss up for Slovakia's first
- Napoli midfielder bends in second moments before half-time
- Substitute Denis Glushakov heads in for Russia as they go for broke at death
- Next Group B games, 20 June: Russia v Wales, Slovakia v England
Marek Hamšík 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 Hamšík 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, Hamšík 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 Hamšík
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.
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, Ján Kozák’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 Hamšík's panache, they could yet go far.
Team reporters' views from Stade Pierre Mauroy
Richard van Poortvliet (@UEFAcomRichVP)
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 Hríbik, Slovakia (@UEFAcomRastoH)
With three new names in the squad following the Wales reverse – Tomáš Hubočan at left-back, Viktor Pečovský 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 Hamšík, they came. It got a bit hectic late on, but credit due for holding on.
Russia: Akinfeev; Schennikov, Ignashevich, Vasili Berezutski (c), Smolnikov; Smolov, Golovin (Mamaev 46), Shatov, Neustädter (Glushakov 46), Kokorin (Shirokov 75); Dzyuba
Substitutes: Lodygin, Guilherme, Shishkin, Aleksei Berezutski, Yusupov, Ivanov, Samedov, Torbinski, Kombarov
Coach: Leonid Slutski
Slovakia: Kozáčik; Hubočan, Ďurica, Škrtel (c), Pekarík; Hamšík, Pečovský, Kucka; Weiss (Švento 72), Duda (Nemec 67), Mak (Ďuriš 80)
Substitutes: Mucha, Novota, Gyömbér, Greguš, Šesták, Stoch, Hrošovský, Škriniar, Saláta
Coach: Ján Kozák
Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)