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Martin Skrtel Leads the Way

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The man described by Marca as "a hard nut to crack" captained his country to a shock victory against the European champions.

Jamie McDonald

The big Liverpool defender will be marshalling the defence throughout most of this month in the absence of both Croatia's Dejan Lovren and France Mamadou Sakho through injury. His performance against Spain in a Euro 2016 qualifier helped his country to a 2-1 victory in Zilina. Amazingly, Spain had not lost in a European Championship qualifier for eight years and for Slovakia to break that record is quite the story.

Many Liverpool fans point to the international performances of Mamadou Sakho as an example of the quality he can bring to the Liverpool defence. However, even Martin Skrtel's most vocal and commanding detractors would marvel at an imperious defensive performance against the reigning European Champions. Sure, Spain have lost three of the nation's past five games but making it four out of six was not something to dismiss. Much debate has surrounded the position of Spanish national team manager Vincent del Bosque after a rotten defence of his homeland's first ever World Cup. Iker Casillas continues to validate José Mourinho's benching of the Spain legend in his final season as manager at Real Madrid.

The main story should be of Slovakia's victory but that will not attract as many clicks or headlines as louder murmurings of Spain's decline. Martin Skrtel believed that his side had much to take credit for and was delighted with the organisation, talent, and determination on display.

We knew before the game we couldn't play open against Spain because the quality was on their side. We had to be compact at the back and then try to go to the open spaces on the counter attack. We played well, we scored the first goal, we were leading all game, but Spain moved the ball well. Of course we knew they had the quality but we showed that with character and commitment you can get three points.

Delightful. Skrtel's handling of Diego Costa was even more so and when Liverpool play Chelsea in November at Anfield, it is hoped that the centre back will draw strength from this performance to shackle the Premier League's top scorer. Liverpool and Martin Skrtel have plenty of business before that. There's Slovakia's away trip to Belarus and the Anfield veteran, given the length of time he's been at the club in comparison to other players, should return for the trip to London to face the Premier League's basement club.