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Spain Suffer First Euro 2016 Qualifying Defeat Against Slovakia

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SPAIN suffered their first defeat in qualifying for a major tournament in eight years when Miroslav Stoch headed a late goal to earn Slovakia a shock 2-1 victory in Euro 2016 Group C on Thursday.

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 after 15 minutes.

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 Alcácer 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. – The Guardian

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