BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
SLOVAKIA hero Robert Mak insists his sensational display against Scotland was one of the best of his career – and is adamant he does not grudge being denied a potential hat-trick by his boss.
Mak, 25, tormented Gordon Strachan’s dismal Scots, lashing home the opening goal following a David Marshall save before calmly slotting in a second after the interval.
The Zenit St. Petersburg winger then capped a man of the match showing by delivering the corner kick for Adam Nemec to bullet a header beyond Marshall to make it 3-0.
Slovakia manager Jan Kozak afforded Mak a standing ovation from the crowd in Trnava by withdrawing him after 80 minutes – albeit, in doing so, denying him the chance to claim the match ball against the demoralised visitors.
Mak smiled: “Am I upset about being substituted? Definitely not. That is the coach’s decision and I always respect that.
“I am just pleased that I was able to help the squad with two goals and one assist. A hat-trick is not important compared to the three points.
“It was really vital that we won this match after a difficult start to the group and I am proud to have played my part.
“Everyone should be very satisfied and I don’t think many people who have criticised the team expected this result.
“It was one of my most memorable matches and I hope there will be many more like this on the way to Russia.”
Meanwhile, Napoli superstar Marek Hamsik has paid tribute to the Slovakia back-line after withstanding Scotland pressure in the first-half – before blowing away Strachan’s side after the break.
Despite going in at the interval with a 1-0 lead, the Slovaks were under the cosh for long periods of the opening 45, with Martin Skrtel and Jan Durica particularly impressive in the centre-back positions.
Hamsik added: “We knew there would be times when we didn’t have the ball and we would need to fight hard and repel Scotland. Our defenders did that and dominated the penalty area.
“In the second half we were able to express ourselves more, punish Scotland and show our qualities going forward too.”