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England hammer San Marino, Slovakia stun Spain

England duly beat San Marino 5-0 to maintain their perfect start to their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

England's Gary Cahill and Wayne Rooney celebrate with Phil Jagielka after scoring the openening goal in their Euro 2016 qualifier against San Marino on 9 October 2014. Picture: Facebook.

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

A powerful, swerving free kick from Juraj Kucka in the 17th minute that deceived goalkeeper Iker Casillas put the hosts ahead and Spain struggled to find a way past inspired home goalkeeper Matus Kozacik despite dominating possession.

Substitute Paco Alcacer levelled for the visitors eight minutes from time but any hopes the 2008 and 2012 champions had of snatching a winner were shattered when 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 since they were beaten by Sweden in October 2006 and it sparked wild celebrations among the Slovakia players and supporters.

"They hit us on the counter attack, we lost concentration and they scored a second goal," Alcacer told the Spanish television broadcaster TVE.

"There are still plenty of games to turn things around," added the Valencia forward. "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, top Group C with a maximum six points. Spain have three after they began their campaign with a 5-1 triumph at home to Macedonia.

Ukraine and Macedonia also have three points and Luxembourg and Belarus a point each.

BRIGHT START

Slovakia made a bright start at the MSK stadium in Zilina and Casillas had to conjure a brilliant reaction save to keep out Robert Mak's 11th-minute volley.

Forward Diego Costa, who has been in red-hot form for Chelsea but has failed to score for Spain in six appearances, nodded a Cesc Fabregas centre narrowly wide two minutes later before Kucka struck.

The champions went close to an equaliser at a corner moments before the break when Kozacik denied first Costa and then Sergio Busquets with a pair of fine saves and the Slovakia players were given a standing ovation as they trooped off.

Spain pressed hard at the start of the second period and Fabregas and Costa went close as they tried to break through the massed Slovak ranks.

Coach Vicente del Bosque threw on Pedro and Alcacer to try to add extra zip to the Spain attack and although the visitors thought they had secured at least a point when Alcacer scored, there was still time for substitute Stoch to bury his header past Casillas.

ENGLAND HAMMER SAN MARINO

England duly beat San Marino 5-0 to maintain their perfect start to their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign but laboured for long periods against the joint-worst team in the world at a half-full Wembley on Thursday.

England went ahead when Phil Jagielka headed home a corner after 24 minutes, doubled their lead when Wayne Rooney scored his 42nd England goal from a 43rd-minute penalty and added a third in the 49th minute when Danny Welbeck smashed home a cross from his Arsenal team mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Andros Townsend, who replaced Welbeck on 66 minutes, made it 4-0 six minutes after coming on, scoring with a fierce shot that bounced in between goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini and his near post.

The fifth was an own goal from Alessandro Della Valle, who deflected a cross shot from Rooney into his own net after 77 minutes.

While the result was convincing, it did not reflect how poor England were in the first half or how they were frustrated for much of the match by a blanket San Marino defence and by Simoncini, who made one superb save from Welbeck in the 42nd minute and several other good stops in the second half.

San Marino spent most of the match in their own half and despite England having to work hard for the win, there was never any doubt the visitors were heading for their 66th successive defeat in World Cup and European Championship qualifiers.

"The fact is, in the first half of this game, a very fit and healthy team got 10 men behind the ball," England manager Roy Hodgson told ITV.

"We had to wear them down and keep doing the right things, knowing if you do that and you score one or two goals in the second half, it will open up and you can score lots and lots of goals."

England, who beat Switzerland 2-0 in their opening qualifier last month, now have six points in Group E and play in Estonia on Sunday.

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