More pain for Spain

Zilina: Spain suffered their first qualifying defeat in eight years when they slumped to a 2-1 loss against Slovakia while England made it two wins in two.

Spain, who had opened their euro 2016 campaign with a 5-1 mauling of Macedonia, exhibited all the faults which had led to their World Cup humiliation as Slovakia went top of Group C with a perfect six points.

Former Chelsea midfielder Miroslav Stoch struck three minutes from time in Zilina to condemn Vicente Del Bosque’s team to a first qualifying defeat since 2006, a streak lasting 36 matches.

They trailed to a 17th-minute Juraj Kucka free-kick before Paco Alcacer’s strike eight minutes from time appeared to salvage a point.

But with just three minutes left Slovakia launched a counter-attack as captain Marek Hamsik played substitute Michal Duris down the inside right to cross for Stoch to head home at the back post.

Diego Costa, who has been in form for Chelsea but has failed to score for Spain in six appearances, headed a Cesc Fàbregas cross narrowly wide.

Two minutes later Spain were punished for the miss when Juraj Kucka unleashed a powerful, swerving free-kick that deceived Iker Casillas to put the hosts ahead. Despite dominating possession for much of the game, the European champions struggled to find a way past the inspired Slovakia goalkeeper, Matus Kozacik.

The Spain coach, Vicente del Bosque, threw on Pedro and Paco Alcácer to try to add some impetus to the Spain attack and they thought they had secured at least a point when Alcacer controlled a cross from Jordi Alba and scored in the 82nd minute.

However, any hopes the 2008 and 2012 champions had of claiming a winner were dashed when Michal Duris whipped in a dangerous cross and Stoch headed past Casillas in the 87th minute.

It is the first time Spain have lost a qualifier in the European Championship or World Cup for 37 games. They were last beaten by Sweden in October 2006 and the victory sparked wild celebrations among the Slovakia players and supporters.

“They hit us on the counterattack, we lost concentration and they scored a second goal,” Alcácer said. “There are still plenty of games to turn things around.” The Valencia forward added: “It will do us good as it means we won’t let ourselves make the same mistake again.”

Slovakia, who won 1-0 in Ukraine in their opening qualifier last month and are ranked 40th in the world, lead Group C with six points. Spain have three after they began their campaign with a 5-1 triumph at home to Macedonia.

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal

www.freepressjournal.in