European Qualifiers: Slovakia shock Spain with first-ever victory

A late goal from Miroslav Stoch secured Slovakia’s first-ever victory over Spain in last night’s European Qualifiers.

Taking home a 2-1 win, the home side took the lead after 17 minutes when Juraj Kucka’s swerving free-kick deceived Iker Casillas in goal, who misjudged the flight of the ball to send the Stadion MSK Zilina into delirium. Moments before half-time, goalkeeper Matus Kozacik pulled off a superb double save to preserve Slovakia’s lead, with the Viktoria Plzen stopper denying both Diego Costa and Sergio Busquets from point-blank range.

Inside the opening six minutes of the second half, Kozacik made two more stunning stops – first to deny Cesc Fabregas from ten yards and then another to prevent Diego Costa from scoring his first goal for Spain.

Slovakia’s persistence finally broke when Paco Alcacer scored his second goal in two games for Vicente del Bosque’s side, prodding it beyond the Slovak stopper with less than ten minutes remaining.

However, with a draw looking a likely result, Slovakia burst forward on the counter attack and former Chelsea man Stoch headed the ball beyond Casillas to secure a historic victory for the hosts, while ending Spain’s eight-year, 36-game unbeaten qualifying run.

Slovakia had a good chance after 11 minutes when Peter Pekarik broke down the right and pulled back for Robert Mak but his first-time shot was beaten away by Casillas.

Costa should have put Spain ahead when he headed wide moments later but Slovakia remained the more positive side.

They were rewarded as Kucka struck after 17 minutes but the goal almost had as much to do with Casillas’ misjudgement as his powerful shot.

Casillas, Spain’s inspirational captain throughout their recent golden era of success, was completely deceived by a strike which swerved only slightly on its way into the centre of the goal.

The error is likely to increase calls for Manchester United’s in-fom keeper David De Gea to be given a chance. Spain threatened an equaliser after 21 minutes but Raul Albiol fired over after a goalmouth scramble and Costa had a penalty appeal rejected after clashing with Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel.

Costa, who has already scored nine times after a blistering start to the season with new club Chelsea, had a header brilliantly saved by Kozacik on the stroke of half-time.

The keeper then reacted quickly to keep out Busquets’ follow-up. The visitors upped the tempo after the break but Kozacik again frustrated them, saving routinely from David Silva and then superbly from Fabregas after good work by Busquets.

Costa beat two defenders to create a chance but Kozacik again saved. Spain continued to dominate possession but looked to be running out of ideas when Alcacer brilliantly controlled a cross from Jordi Alba and rifled in a shot.

Vincente del Bosque’s side might have then fancied their chances of claiming victory but it was Slovakia who finished the stronger, as Duris combined with Marek Hamsik to whip in a sumptuous cross onto the head of an unmarked Stoch, who claimed victory.