Stoch nicks Slovakia win in Russia
Slovakia won 1-0 in Russia to make it maximum points from their opening two UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers and give themselves an early stranglehold on Group B. Fenerbahce winger Miroslav Stoch was the man of the match, scoring the decisive goal in the 27th minute.
"I'm very pleased with the result as we were playing against one of Europe's best teams tonight," said Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss afterwards. "We made the very best choice of tactics, as playing attacking style football against Russia could have been fatal. I'm proud of my players, thay gave all they had for this win."
Russia started in lively style, serving up four corners in the opening ten minutes to keep goalkeeper Jan Mucha on his toes. But it was to no avail as Slovakia defended stoutly, with their No1 equal to everything that came his way.
Slovakia went into the lead against the run of play, when Stoch fired the ball into the top right-hand corner with a powerful shot from the edge of the box after a mix-up in the Russian defence.
Dick Advocaat's side tried in vain for an equaliser, their efforts not helped by inaccuracy in front of Slovakia's net. Stuttgart striker Pavel Pogrebnyak missed a clear chance to level just before the break, but his ten-metre shot hit the side-netting.
Slovakia created a series of threats after the restart but failed to extend their lead.
In the 50th minute, Russia midfielder Konstantin Zyryanov sent the ball into the net, but Belgian referee Frank De Bleeckere ruled the effort offside. Five minutes later, Arsenal playmaker Andrey Arshavin also had a chance to restore parity, but his seven-metre drive went inches wide.
Russia, 2-0 winners over Andorra in their EURO 2012 qualifying curtain-raiser on Friday, kept their visitors under constant pressure as the clock ticked down, but they lacked the killer touch.
Slovakia, who edged Macedonia for a hard-fought victory in their opener, top Group B with six points, three clear of Russia and Republic of Ireland, who are in action against Andorra in Dublin later today.