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Stoch staggered as Slovakia win in Russia

Miroslav Stoch reflected on "a great goal and a great victory" after his fine strike gave Slovakia a 1-0 Group B win in Russia, telling UEFA.com: "If we drew it would have been good for us."

Stoch staggered as Slovakia win in Russia
Stoch staggered as Slovakia win in Russia ©uefa.com 1998-2012. All rights reserved.

Miroslav Stoch was the hero in Moscow after his 27th-minute goal earned Slovakia a shock 1-0 win against Russia in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group B.

The 20-year-old Fenerbahçe SK player pounced on a loose Igor Akinfeev clearance to drive an unstoppable shot past the Russia goalkeeper at a time when the hosts looked to have Vladimír Weiss's side under the cosh. Slovakia went on to defend their slender lead, and Stoch told UEFA.com: "It was a great goal and a great victory. You don't score against Russia every day and you don't win in Russia every day, so we are really happy, but there is still along way to go in our qualifying group."

Stoch's goal may have made the headlines, but Slovakia's success owed much to their defensive resilience and the handling of custodian Ján Mucha, who made important saves to keep out Andrey Arshavin and Pavel Pogrebnyak. Captain Marek Hamšík had a quiet night, but he was quick to give credit where it was due, saying: "We were prepared for Russia as we know how well they can play, but we defended well, and after we went 1-0 up we managed not to concede."

In only their second competitive game under new coach Dick Advocaat, Russia did not play badly but were made to pay for missed chances, as midfielder Igor Semshov acknowledged. "That's the beauty of football; sometimes the team that takes their only chance wins, while the team that has lots of opportunities and doesn't take them, loses," he said. "We had good moments, though. That's all I can say."

Back in the national team after serving a suspension, Yuri Zhirkov felt similarly philosophical. "If we had scored an early goal, we would have gone on to win," said the 27-year-old. "We kept attacking and I think we were a little bit unlucky in the end." Russia will look to make amends as they visit section leaders Republic of Ireland in their next qualifier on 8 October.

Slovakia visit Armenia on the same day, with their hopes of following up their FIFA World Cup debut with a trip to the UEFA EURO 2012 final tournament in Poland and Ukraine very much alive. They stayed on the pitch for five minutes after the Russia win to applaud their small band of travelling fans, most of whom – like Stoch – cannot have expected things to have gone so well. The goalscorer concluded: "If we drew it would have been good for us, but we won, so it is even better."

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