Slovakia defender Jan Durica believes England’s 1-0 win over Slovakia on Sunday was fixed by the match officials.
Adam Lallana netted a 95th-minute winner for the Three Lions in Trnava in the FIFA World Cup qualifier, with Slovakia skipper Martin Skrtel sent off with 33 minutes remaining for two bookable offences. Durica, who plays his club football for Turkish side Trabzonspor, believes there was some foul play at work during the fixture, per Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail.
“There is only one place at the World Cup. Why should Slovakia go there when we have England in the group?” he asked. “Of course, they will always prefer the stronger team. Probably, the referee exactly knew how to do it. Today we might have played more than England.”
Only one team from each of the nine groups in the UEFA section of qualifying will be guaranteed a spot at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with eight teams given a second chance via the play-offs.
For long spells of England’s tussle with Slovakia, both sides seemed set to take a point, as the hosts defended resolutely following the dismissal of their captain. However, their hearts were broken as Lallana smuggled home the opening goal with what was almost the last kick of the game.
It was the red-card decision, not the late goal, that irked Durica, though, per John Cross of the Daily Mirror:
And it was after a really strict red card. I think that the referee waited until Skrtel did a foul. We were really unhappy.
Englishmen knew that they are one player more, so, logically, they began pushing forward and creating the pressure. But they did not have clear chances, so that is why we regret it.
If they would have created some great action and scored nice goal, you say it is okay, but not such as goal in the stoppage time.
While players dispute decisions often, there can be few complaints about Skrtel’s dismissal on reflection. As noted by former Sunderland goalkeeper David Preece, the defender seemed intent on getting himself a red card:
Indeed, according to OptaCan, Skrtel has been booked in seven and sent off in one of his last 13 international matches.
It could be argued he was fortunate to stay on for as long as he did. Having already been cautioned, the former Liverpool defender pulled down Harry Kane, who was running into space, late in the first half, somehow escaping a second yellow card.
The Fenerbahce man was eventually sent off in the 57th minute for a second caution. However, the incident that saw Skrtel stamp on Kane’s leg while he was grounded could have quite easily prompted the referee to issue a straight red card.