Tehran, Feb 6 -Six months after being outplayed in Bratislava by Iran, Slovakia exorcised the ghost of that defeat with a 3-2 win at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran on Wednesday afternoon.
The victory was made sweeter by the fact that the Slovak team that triumphed at one of the most intimidating stadiums in the world was a mere shadow of the one that lost 4-3 in Slovakia.
Without the services of overseas based players like Vratislav Gresko, Szilard Nemeth, Stanislav Varga, Vladimir Labant, Vladimir Janocko, Attila Pinte, Juraj Bucek and Miroslav Karhan, Slovakia coach Ladislav Jurkemik was forced to raid the Slovak league for replacements for the match.
Jurkemik's squad for the game against Iran included 15 players from the Slovak League and three more players who play professional football in the Czech Republic – international debutant Rastislav Michalik (Sparta Prague), Martin Petras (FK Jablonec) and Lubos Reiter (Sigma Olomouc).
Henrich Bencik opened the scoring after seven minutes to silence the partisan crowd but Ali Karimi, who scored a hat-trick in Bratislava, was on hand to flick the ball into an empty net in the 20th minute after beating the Slovak defence.
However, it wasn’t long before Reiter regained the lead for the visitors as his 29th minute strike took the Iranians by surprise.
Slovakia stuck to their offensive style in the second half and were duly rewarded in the 68th minute as Bencik got his second and Slovakia’s third goal.
To their credit, Iranians never gave up and earned a penalty when Ali Karimi was fouled in the box in the 80th minute. The Al-Ahli player took the spot kick himself to score his second goal of the match.
Iranian coach Branco Ivankovic, in charge of his first match since taking over from Miroslav Blazevic, was gracious in defeat and said the Slovaks were the better technical side.
"They had very good organization, and this was more true of their good work in away games," said Ivankovic who lamented the absence of his European-based players for the match.