Slovakia up and running with Latvia success

Slovakia 2-0 Latvia
The home side missed a penalty and hit the woodwork but were not to be denied an opening-day triumph in qualifying Group 9.

Ivan Galád's Slovakia made a winning start to qualifying
Ivan Galád's Slovakia made a winning start to qualifying ©FC Nitra

Slovakia are the early leaders in 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying Group 9 despite failing to convert a penalty in their campaign curtain-raiser against Latvia.

Artūrs Vaičulis saved the spot kick from Filip Kiss just before the hour but by that point the home side were already a goal to the good, Juraj Vavrík having got the opener on nine minutes. That looked set to be the only goal of the game too, until Vaičulis was dismissed in the final minute and his replacement Elvis Putniņš failed to keep out a Lukáš Štetina free-kick from inside Slovakia's half.

Ivan Galád's men went ahead courtesy of an excellently worked goal, Róbert Mak picking out Matúš Mikuš in the area and the latter, finding himself in space, pulling the ball back for Vavrík to convert. Mak then hit the crossbar from the edge of the area, but it was from the spot that the hosts looked most likely to double their lead after Kirils Ševeļovs brought down Ján Greguš.

Instead, Vaičulis foiled Slovakia captain Kiss, but the visiting No1 was later sent off for tangling with Arnold Šimonek. Matters only worsened for Latvia when substitute Štetina notched a surprise second following a mistake from substitute goalkeeper Putniņš, and they must now look to regroup at home against France on 2 September. Slovakia are next in action away against Kazakhstan four days after that.