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Wednesday , October 23 2019

Switzerland on brink of Euro last 16 – Hamsik outstanding

Russia’s forward Alexander Kokorin (left), vies with Slovakia’s midfielder Viktor Pecovsky during the Euro 2016 Group B football match between Russia and Slovakia at the Pierre-Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve-d’Ascq, near Lille on June 15. (AFP)
Russia’s forward Alexander Kokorin (left), vies with Slovakia’s midfielder Viktor Pecovsky during the Euro 2016 Group B football match between Russia and Slovakia at the Pierre-Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve-d’Ascq, near Lille on June 15. (AFP)

PARIS, June 15, (RTRS): Switzerland were on the brink of the Euro 2016 last 16 on Wednesday after they salvaged a 1-1 draw against Romania in a lively Group A clash at the Parc des Princes.

The Swiss, who owe their point to Admir Mehmedi’s second-half strike, have four points from two games while Romania have one after Bogdan Stancu opened the scoring in the first half.

Although the Swiss have a good chance to qualify, at least as one of the four best third-placed teams, they may regret missing several chances in a game that could have seen them move into their first European Championship knockout phase.

Romania, instead, earned a lifeline ahead of their final game against Albania.

After a 2-1 defeat in the tournament opener versus hosts France, Romania started cautiously, allowing their opponents to pick up momentum.

In the seventh minute, Switzerland’s Haris Seferovic beat defender Vlad Chichires in the box but his right-foot effort then went just wide.

The forward had another chance nine minutes later, only for goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu to deny him with his left foot.

Romania, however, scored with their first chance.

Switzerland captain Stephan Lichtst-einer grabbed Alexandru Chipciu’s shirt in the area and Stancu converted the resulting penalty, putting Romania ahead in the 18th minute against the run of play.

Stancu, who also netted from the spot against France last Friday, became the first Romanian player to score two goals at a European Championship.

Two minutes later, Tatarusanu tipped Fabian Schaer’s fierce 20-metre volley over the bar as the game got livelier.

Romania had a huge opportunity to double their tally but Cristian Sapuranu’s shot went just wide.

Blerim Dzemaili’s header was off target as Switzerland missed yet another chance before halftime.

Romania defended well but there was nothing Tatarusanu could do in the 57th minute when Mehmedi drilled a half-volley into the far side of the net.

Switzerland continued to push and coach Vladimir Petkovic substituted Seferovic just past the hour mark for 19-year-old Breel Embolo, who had no impact in a disappointing performance.

Slovakia 2, Russia 1

Slovakia deepened Russia’s woes with classy first-half goals from Vladimir Weiss and the outstanding Marek Hamsik securing a tense 2-1 victory in their Euro 2016 Group B clash.

For the second game in a row, the Russians managed only two attempts on target and their wasteful finishing cost them dearly, with substitute Denis Glushakov’s 80th minute goal proving too little too late for them.

Their profligacy leaves Russia needing to beat Wales in their final group game if they are to have any chance of progressing but there was only joy for Slovakia, as they marked their debut at a European Championship finals with a first win.

Just 24 hours after UEFA told Russia it would be expelled from the tournament if their fans caused more crowd trouble, the Slovaks outplayed them for large parts of a match contested under a closed roof because of forecasts of heavy rain.

Man of the match Hamsik gave an early taste of what was to come when he fired a thundering shot just over in the 10th minute but the Russians had plenty of chances of their own in the first half-hour which they failed to convert.

Winger Fedor Smolov was particularly wasteful, often deciding to shoot when passing would have been a better option, and firing chance after chance wide

Slovakia, who made three changes from the side that lost their opening game 2-1 to Wales, took the lead in the 32nd minute when Hamsik hit a superb long ball to Weiss, who cut in from the left edge of the box past two defenders and curled his shot inside the far post.

Just before halftime Hamsik got on the scoresheet himself, picking up a short corner from Weiss on the left and striking his own superb curling shot across the goal and in off the right hand post.

“It was a collective effort, we fought for it,” Hamsik said after the final whistle. “It is the first Euro win for Slovakia in history. We are happy we were able to get it.”

With the Russian attack in disarray, the Slovaks appeared to be heading towards a comfortable victory for much of the second half, but the game changed direction dramatically in the last 10 minutes.

Glushakov threw his side a lifeline in the last 10 minutes when he reduced the deficit, heading home Oleg Shatov’s cross. Suddenly, Slovakia were on the back foot and the Russians looked capable of grabbing an equaliser.

Jan Durica in the centre of the Slovakian defence continued to throw himself about, chasing, harrying and covering shots in a desperate effort to protect his side’s slender lead.

Glushakov had a chance to pull his side level late on but fired just wide, and an injury-time corner for Russia was headed clear as the final whistle went.

Despite the disappointing result for the Russians, there was no repeat of the scenes that followed Saturday’s draw with England when their fans charged at opposition supporters after the final whistle in Marseille.

Instead, the Russian fans left the stadium quickly while the jubilant Slovaks danced in front of their ecstatic supporters.

The result leaves Russia with just a single point from a draw with England, and coach Leonid Slutski has not yet given up hope of making the knockout stages.

“The situation is pretty unclear. Everyone is still in with a chance,” Slutski told reporters.

Slovakia top the group on three points ahead of Wales on goal difference. The Welsh take on England in Lens on Thursday.


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