Defending European champions Spain suffered their first qualifying defeat in eight years on Thursday 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, now plying his trade at Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates, 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 counterattack as captain Marek Hamsik played substitute Michal Duris down the inside-right channel to cross for Stoch to head home at the back post.
“I definitely didn’t expect this result, it was unexpected,” Del Bosque said.
“We should have scored more goals, but we got hit with a deadly counter. This is football, we can’t reproach the players,” he said. “We were patient, but we didn’t manage to finish it off and their goalkeeper was outstanding.”
At a subdued Wembley, England made it two wins from two with a routine 5-0 defeat of whipping boys San Marino.
Wayne Rooney took his international goal tally to 42 and forced Alessandro Della Valle into a late own-goal, while Phil Jagielka, Danny Welbeck and substitute Andros Townsend also found the target.
Having won 2-0 away to Switzerland in their Group E opener, England have now prevailed in what are likely to be their hardest and easiest fixtures of the campaign. They play away against Estonia tomorrow.
“Job well done,” England manager Roy Hodgson said.
“The crowd were fantastic. They’ve had an enjoyable night. We could have had more, but I can’t fault the players. I’m really pleased,” Hodgson said.
“At 5-0 when we lost the ball, we had three or four players sprinting back to win the ball back. That type of desire is very commendable,” he added.
Switzerland’s campaign went from bad to worse as the team that made the round-of-16 at the FIFA World Cup finals slumped to a 1-0 defeat in Slovenia.
Milivoje Novakovic grabbed the winner from the penalty spot in Maribor in the 79th minute after defender Johan Djourou had brought down Kevin Kampl.
Switzerland pressed for a point, but were denied by a string of fine saves by Slovenia goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
Lithuania also made it two wins in two in the group with a 1-0 victory over Estonia in Vilnius.
Group G favorites Sweden and Russia fought out a 1-1 draw in Solna, but Fabio Capello’s Russia stay top on goal-difference from Montenegro and Austria.
Ola Toivonen scored a second-half equalizer for Sweden, who were missing injured striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Stade Rennais forward canceled out Dynamo Moscow forward Alexander Kokorin’s first-half opener as Sweden drew for the second time in as many group matches.
Sweden should have claimed all three points, but they missed a first-half penalty awarded after Igor Smolnikov fouled Jimmy Durmaz in the penalty area.
Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev got down to parry Sunderland midfielder Sebastian Larsson’s spot-kick.
Montenegro were held to an embarrassing 0-0 draw by Liechtenstein, playing their 100th international, in Vaduz.
Liechtenstein held on for the draw, despite having to field two goalkeepers — first choice Peter Jehle picking up an injury and having to be replaced by Cengiz Bicer.
Austria edged Moldova 2-1 in Chisinau, despite playing the last 10 minutes with 10 men.
Marc Janko scored Austria’s winner, but was then sent off after David Alaba and Alexandru Dedov had swapped first-half penalties.
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