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. Ask our Player Barometer how good he is.
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.