ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA: As Marek Hamsik’s influence begins to wane for Slovakia, Milan Skriniar has stepped up as the main man.
Scoring the winning goal in a match at a European Championship is a decent way to start.
Skriniar brought down a corner and toe-poked the ball into the net from 15 meters to earn Slovakia a 2-1 victory over Poland on Monday.
It’s becoming quite the year for the uncompromising center back, who is coming off playing an integral role for Inter Milan in its title-winning campaign in Italy.
Hamsik, with his Mohawk, has long been the most famous player in Slovakian soccer but now he has some fierce competition in the 26-year-old Skriniar.
Poland was made to pay for Grzegorz Krychowiak's red card seven minutes before Skriniar’s goal, the holding midfielder collecting his second booking for clumsily going into the back of Jakob Hromada near the center circle.
It was a bad day for Poland’s two other renowned players, too.
FIFA player of the year Robert Lewandoski’s struggles at major soccer tournaments continued, the Bayern Munich striker failing to have a clear-cut chance and snatching at the opportunities he did have in the first half.
Lewandowski has only two goals in 12 matches at a World Cup or European Championship.
Then there was Wojciech Szczesny, the Juventus player who became the first goalkeeper to score an own-goal at the tournament. Szczesny was unfortunate as the ball rebounded off his near post, onto his outstretched arm and back into the net following a shot by Slovakia winger Robert Mak in the 18th minute.
That gave Slovakia the lead before Karol Linetty equalized for Poland barely 30 seconds into the second half.