World Cup - Slovenia dump Russia out to progress

Wed, 18 Nov 19:46:00 2009

Slovenia beat Russia 1-0 in the second leg of their play-off at the Petrol Arena to dump Guus Hiddink's side out of the 2010 World Cup and seal their progression to South Africa.

Zlatko Dedic Slovenia Imago - 0

Matjaz Kek's side, who are ranked 49th in the world, sealed their place in the finals after Zlatko Dedic (pictured) netted the game's solitary goal in the 44th minute.

The compact ground provided a vociferous atmosphere and helped Slovenia subdue their opponents early on before Russia lost their composure in the second half with two men sent off.

Hiddink's side looked devoid of ideas in attack as Slovenia defended stoutly in front of their fervent supporters and substitute Alexander Kerzhakov's needless red card in the second half epitomised Russia's frustration.

To compound the issue, Yuri Zhirkov received a second yellow card for a bizarre push on a Slovenia substitute warming up on the touchline as Russia's World Cup dreams were shattered.

The hosts began the brighter and Milivoje Novakovic almost tested Igor Akinfeev in just the fourth minute as he was slipped through on goal by Bojan Jokic but hesitated and checked his run anticipating a non-existent offside flag.

Russia were pushed further under the cosh five minutes later as Sergei Ignashevich diverted a cross from the left by Valter Birsa on to his own post with Akinfeev rooted to the spot.

Slovenia kept the pressure on their opponents and Novakovic dinked in a delightful ball for Dedic, but his header was poor in the 17th minute and straight at the grateful Russia goalkeeper.

Novakovic continued to be at the forefront of everything positive for the hosts and he found himself on the half-hour mark with an abundance of time and space on the edge of the penalty area but drove his shot straight at Akinfeev.

The Slovenia forward then showed tremendous bravery in standing firm in the wall to repel Ignashevich's fierce free-kick from 25 yards, with Novakovic blocking his effort with his head in the 42nd minute.

But in the final minute of the first half, Dedic produced an instinctive finish to stab home from Birsa's devilish delivery out on the right wing to find the corner of Akinfeev's net.

Russia no doubt received a stinging half-time talk from Hiddink and they began the second half with much greater urgency and purpose.

But the visitors' challenge was made all the more arduous when substitute Alexander Kerzhakov was shown a straight red card for a petulant kick out at Handanovic after the goalkeeper had dived down to collect Igor Denisov's shot in the 65th minute.

Handanovic was called into action as Zhirkov fired a rasping shot to his near post from the left, but the goalkeeper made a fine reflex save to deny Russia once more.

Dedic squandered a clear-cut opportunity to put the game beyond reach seconds later but, having created space with an incisive run down the right, he sliced his shot wide of Akinfeev's near post.

As Russia's frustration mounted, Zhirkov inexplicably pushed a Slovenia substitute who was loitering on the touchline near the left-back and the referee had no hesitation in showing him a second yellow card in stoppage time.

There was one final chance for Russia as Sergei Ignashevich stole in at the back post and looped a cross-shot to the far corner, but it dipped agonisingly over the crossbar in the third minute of added time.

The final whistle was met with delirious celebrations from the Slovenia players while Hiddink was dealt his first failure in leading an international side through to the finals of a major competition.

Dan Quarrell / Eurosport

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account