Slovakia vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina: Final score 1-2, Hajrovic screamer settles a brilliant game

Laurence Griffiths

A fantastic, end-to-end encounter between Slovakia and Bosnia and Herzegovina saw the visitors likely to head for their first ever World Cup after Izet Hajrovic's 30-yard stunner won the game.

A brilliant encounter between Slovakia and Bosnia started as it would go on as both teams immediately began on the front foot, leading to a series of attacks from both sides in the opening minutes, Edin Dzeko's blocked shot the closest either side got to a goal.

Slovakia had a decent opportunity soon after -- Bosnia were aggrieved after Miralem Pjanic was fouled on the edge of the area, only for the referee to wave play on as Slovakia broke. Marek Hamsik led the charge, before finding Vladimir Weiss, who darted into the area before forcing Asmir Begovic to tip the ball onto his near post.

Both teams were attacking relentlessly, with the game an end-to-end series of counterattacks, unsurprisingly dictated by Hamsik and Pjanic, who had both more surprisingly been given the freedom of the park by the opposition to create almost at will.

Slovakia had the ball in the net shortly afterwards via Stanislav Sestak, getting on the end of a fine free-kick to head the ball into the net, but he was correctly judged to have been offside.

That nervy moment aside, it was Bosnia who were on top, despite their erratic passing as Slovakia struggled to clear their lines in the face of the visitors' intensity.

Yet just afterwards, Sestak broke down the right wing to ping in a fine cross for Adam Nemec, who looked clear to score before Asmir Begovic swooped off his line to deny the striker with a block at his feet, the ball falling just out of Weiss' reach as he looked to get the rebound. It was Slovakia's turn to threaten now, and Sestak once again found space down the right, this time in the channel as he found space to shoot, but his effort from a tight angle was far too soft to test Begovic.

Chances were flowing freely at both ends, and Pjanic pulled off a supreme pass shortly afterwards, arrowing a ball over the top to find Ibisevic in the area, but his touch and strength were not sufficient to escape the attention of the Slovakian defence and the chance to shoot eluded him.

Nemec soon had the best chance of the game to score, yet spurned the opportunity to open his account for the national team as Hamsik's inch-perfect left-footed cross found him at an abandoned back post, but his header was poor, dropping wide of the far post as Bosnia breathed a sigh of relief.

Bosnia were protesting for a corner shortly afterwards as Edin Dzeko fell under the challenge of the goalkeeper, Jan Mucha, and even replays made it difficult to see how much of the ball he saw, but the referee awarded merely a corner.

A game as open as this could only remain scoreless for so long, and it was no surprise that the goal came from a counterattack. Pekarik, showing no signs of injury whatsoever, stole the ball from a Bosnian attack and launched himself down the right wing at speed, eluding his marker to find Nemec outside the area. It was a 3-on-4 situation, but the striker kept his cool and unselfishly passed to Hamsik, who burst down the left channel and finished unerringly into the far corner.

The second half showed no change in tempo as Weiss struck the woodwork again after just 30 seconds of play, driving into the area before blazing a shot which grazed the far post on its way out of play.

Bosnia were forced to be more patient in their play as Slovakia were committing more men to defence when the ball was in their third. Pjanic did remarkably well to get on the end of a ball and find a cross, which Jan Mucha managed to tip away from his near post, before Senad Lulic's fierce swerving effort curled just away from the top corner seconds later.

As the pace of the game slowly dropped, Bosnia took advantage of some slack marking from a corner to take the lead, Miralem Pjanic's near post flick-on finding Ermin Bicakcic at the back post to slam in his first international goal.

Slovakia's decision to replace the hugely effective Sestak with Erik Jendrisek appeared to be a strange one, but he soon tested the Bosnian defence with his pace, leading a counterattack from which Weiss found Hamsik, whose smart backheel fooled the entire opposition defence to find Nemec on the edge of the area, but his ferocious drive through the bodies in the box shaved the post on the way to going wide.

With the game becoming nervy and edgy as time went on, Bosnia found a hero in Izet Hajrovic. On his second cap, having turned down Switzerland, the midfielder arrived on the edge of the area as the Slovakian defence stood firm and smashed an unbelievable 30-yard drive with his left foot which beat Jan Mucha and took Bosnia a massive step closer to their first ever World Cup.

That proved enough for the visitors to see the game out, a result which takes them a huge step closer to Brazil. Slovakia will be disappointed, and feel hard done-by to go home with nothing, but despite Hamsik's brilliance, the team faded badly in the second half and paid the price.

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