Belfast Telegraph

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Slovakia coach lauds Hamsik's star quality

Slovakia 2-1 Russia

By Carl Markham

Slovakia coach Jan Kozak has tipped Marek Hamsik to "play for a very big club" after the midfielder inspired their 2-1 Euro 2016 defeat of Russia.

Napoli ace Hamsik created the opening goal for Vladimir Weiss before masterfully curling their second into the top-right corner to revive their hopes of reaching the knockout stage.

Russia pursued a late equalising goal after Denis Glushakov's 80th-minute header, but their inability to convert increasing pressure leaves them on the brink of elimination.

Victory moved Slovakia up to second in Group B and in a position to ensure progress by overcoming England on Monday.

"(Hamsik) is one of the leaders of this team along with Martin Skrtel," said Kozak. "His performance was superb. He helped a lot in defence and scored a beautiful goal which was a major contribution to our victory.

"I don't know whether we will be here long enough for him to become one of the top players of the finals, but what we can say is that he has matured as a person and as a player at Napoli - he is ready to play for a very big club.

"The match was very close and tense; nobody wanted to open up space and concede. We managed to score with a brilliant piece of play from Vladimir Weiss and then Marek Hamsik got another from Weiss' set-piece."

Russia coach Leonid Slutsky dismissed suggestions his team selection was wrong.

He is working without several injured players, but made changes at half-time and when asked if he had chosen the wrong line-up, said: "No, I wouldn't say that because if the plan we had at the beginning had been executed, and if we had scored the first goal, it would have been a different game.

"After we went behind, we had to change our plan, especially the system in midfield."

SLOVAKIA: Kozacik, Pekarik, Skrtel, Durica, Hubocan, Kucka, Pecovsky, Hamsik, Mak (Duris, 80 mins), Duda (Nemec, 67 mins), Weiss (Svento, 72 mins).

Unused subs: Mucha, Gyomber, Gregus, Sestak, Stoch, Hrosovsky, Skriniar, Salata, Novota.

Goals: Weiss 32, Hamsik 45

Yellow cards: Duruca 46

RUSSIA: Akinfeev, Smolnikov, V Berezutski, Ignashevich, Schennikov, Kokorin (Shirokov, 75 mins), Golovin (Mamaev, 46 mins), Neustadter (Glushakov, 46 mins), Smolov, Shatov, Dzjuba.

Unused subs: Lodygin, Shishkin, A Berezutski, Yusupov, Ivanov, Samedov, Torbinski, Kombarov, Marinato.

Goal: Glushakov 80

Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)

Match rating: 7/10

Man of the match: Marek Hamsik

Possession: Slovakia 38% Russia 62%

Shots on target: Slovakia 3 Russia 2

Fouls committed: Slovakia 12 Russia 8

Belfast Telegraph