Stefan Tarkovic explains why Martin Dubravka was left out of Saturday’s squad
The absence of Martin Dubravka from Slovakia’s team on Saturday night got the attention of Newcastle United fans.
Especially when they checked and realised he wasn’t even on the bench as Slovakia took on Malta in a key World Cup qualifier.
Wednesday night had seen the Slovakian number one at last return to play for the national side, a clean sheet away in Cyprus for Martin Dubravka in a goalless draw, an assured performance from the Newcastle goalkeeper.
Saturday night saw Slovakia only drawing 2-2 at home to Malta in another World Cup qualifier. Slovakia conceding twice in the first half but earning a relieved draw thanks to two goals in the opening eight minutes of the second half.
More importantly for Newcastle United fans was the situation regarding Martin Dubravka, as an injury to the NUFC number one is the last thing we need with relegation staring the Magpies in the face.
After the disappointment of the 2-2 draw against Malta, Stefan Tarkovic was specifically asked about Dubravka’s absence after the change of goalkeeper had almost certainly cost Slovakia two points. The Slovakia team boss revealing that it was actually a stomach bug that had ruled Martin Dubravka out of Saturday night’s squad, rather than injury.
It will be interesting to see what the situation is on Tuesday night, hopefully Dubravka recovering in time, as Slovakia face Russia in their next group game. Six teams in the group and only the group winners automatically qualify, with two wins from two already, a win for Russia on Tuesday would take them seven points clear already of Martin Dubravka and his Slovakian teammates.
Elsewhere on Saturday, another really bad night for Ireland, with Ciaran Clark and Jeff Hendrick in the squad.
On Wednesday the Republic of Ireland lost 3-2 despite scoring first against Serbia, Mitrovic getting two goals including the the winner.
Clark played the first hour at home to Luxembourg on Saturday night before being subbed with the game goalless at the time. Rodrigues scoring the winner for Luxembourg with five minutes to go.
Jeff Hendrick left on the bench for the 90 minutes tonight.
Meanwhile, Aleksandar Mitrovic made it three goals this week, following up his two against Republic of Ireland on Wednesday, with another goal tonight, helping Serbia to an excellent 2-2 draw after going two down.
A bit ominous seeing Mitro returning to goalscoring form as Newcastle battle Fulham for Premier League safety.
Newcastle United internationals:
Wednesday 24 March
Serbia 3 Republic of Ireland 2 – World Cup Qualifier
A bit of a disaster for Newcastle pair Ciaran Clark and Jeff Hendrick and their teammates.
Ireland taking the lead having not scored in the previous seven matches.
Ciaran Clark partly at fault for the equaliser and then easily beaten in the air by Mitro for the winning goal. Meanwhile, Jeff Hendrick left out of the team in favour of a couple of Preston midfielders, the Newcastle midfielder introduced at 1-1 on 61 minutes, within 14 minutes Serbia leading 3-1.
Cyprus 0 Slovakia 0 – World Cup Qualifier
A clean sheet away in Cyprus for Martin Dubravka, returning to the Slovakian team for his first match in 16 months since 19 November 2019.
Thursday 25 March
Italy 2 Northern Ireland 0 – World Cup Qualifier
Italy took control with two first-half goals but a spirited display after the break gives Northern Ireland hope for their World Cup qualifying campaign.
Jamal Lewis hadn’t been able to train during the week and was ruled out of last night’s squad with a groin injury. He must be an injury worry now ahead of Newcastle v Tottenham in nine days time.
Scotland 2 Austria 2 – World Cup Qualifier
Former Newcastle defender Grant Hanley scored as the Scots shared four second-half goals.
However, Newcastle’s Ryan Fraser watched the entire match from the subs bench.
Sweden 1 Georgia 0 – World Cup Qualifier
Emil Krafth took his usual place on the bench for Sweden, having started only three times for his country these past two and a half years.
With Sweden leading 1-0, Emil Krafth got the last six minutes with that one goal giving the NUFC man and his teammates all three points.
Saturday 27 March
Republic of Ireland 0 Luxembourg 1 – World Cup Qualifier
Clark played the first hour before being subbed with the game goalless at the time. Rodrigues scoring the winner for Luxembourg with five minutes to go.
Jeff Hendrick left on the bench for the entire 90 minutes tonight.
Slovakia 2 Malta 2 – World Cup Qualifier
Slovakia fought back with two second half goals to earn a point.
Newcastle fans understandably concerned that Martin Dubravka was not only not in the starting eleven but not in the matchday squad at all.
However, after the keeper’s absence almost certainly cost Slovakia two points, the team’s manager said after the match that it was a stomach bug and not an injury that had ruled the Newcastle keeper out.
Slovakia and hopefully Martin Dubravka now face Russia on Tuesday night, a key game as after only two matches, Russia are four points ahead of Slovakia in the six team group, only the winners automatically qualifying.
Sunday 28 March
Northern Ireland v USA – Friendly
Israel v Scotland – World Cup Qualifier
Kosovo v Sweden – World Cup Qualifier
Tuesday 30 March
Qatar v Republic of Ireland – Friendly
Ciaran Clark and Jeff Hendrick
Slovakia v Russia – World Cup Qualifier
Wednesday 31 March
Northern Ireland v Bulgaria – World Cup Qualifier
Scotland v Faroe Islands – World Cup Qualifier
Sweden v Estonia – Friendly
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