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Vittek strike spares Slovakia

Saturday, 4 September 2004

[1] A goal from Robert Vittek with less than three minutes remaining gave Slovakia a share of the spoils in a keenly-fought 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 3 contest against Russia in Moscow.

Bulykin opener

[2] With time fast running out, Vittek escaped the offside tap and met a beautifully-flighted pass from Radoslav Zábavník on the edge of the box, and after controlling on his chest, he shot past Viacheslav Malafeev to cancel out Dmitri Bulykin's first-half strike. The goal was Slovakia's reward after Dusan Galis' side had dominated much of the second period, posing a constant threat to Malafeev's goal.

Instinctive shot

[3] The first half had ended very differently though, with Russia threatening to dominate after Bulykin's 15th-minute opener. Playing on his home ground, the FC Dinamo Moskva forward was a constant thorn in Slovakia's side and, having been put through by Aleksandr Kerzhakov - whose astute turn on the edge of the centre circle had split the Slovakian defence - ran into space before looping an instinctive shot over Kamil Contofalsky.

Miscued clearance

[4] Towards the end of the first period, a series of miscued clearances gave both sides scoring opportunities. First the otherwise excellent Miroslav Karhan's attempted clearance ballooned into the air with Bulykin the grateful recipient and he found Kerzhakov via the head of Dmitri Khokhlov, but the FC Zenit St. Peterburg striker flashed the ball well over Contofalsky's goal from 12 metres out.

Nemeth chance

[5] Minutes later at the other end, Szilárd Nemeth missed a gilt-edged opportunity after another sliced clearance - this time by Roman Sharonov - put him clear, but the Middlesbrough FC striker failed to hit the target. It was a warning for Russia, but one they did not appear to heed as they conceded a number of free-kicks and corners at the start of the second half.

Penalty miss

[6] Slovakia were unable to take advantage and a rash of fouls culminated in left-back Vratislav Gresko bringing down Kerzhakov on the edge of the box to concede a penalty with less than 20 minutes remaining. Andrei Kariaka powered the ball straight at Contofalsky though, who then made a second save before the Slovakian defence came to his rescue. The save gave the visitors a lift and they piled on the pressure until Vittek finally broke through the stoic Russian defence.

Slovakia second

[7] Slovakia, who are in second place in the section behind Estonia, will therefore go into their home game with Liechtenstein on Wednesday in good heart, while Russia next travel to Luxembourg on 9 October.

Russia's Vadim Evseev and Szilárd Nemeth contest an aerial ball