Slovenia reached the 2010 World Cup finals this evening but at the expense of a nine men Russia. A 44th minute goal on a dramatic night in Maribor sealed Slovenia’s place. The Bochum striker taped the ball in from Valter Birsa’s cross minutes before half-time in what proved to be the game’s only goal to spark jubilant scenes at the Gradski Vrt stadium involving two sending offs. The first sending off, which was in the sixty sixth minute, was handed to Aleksandr Kerzhakov for an outrageous tackle. The second was in the ninetieth minute when Chelsea’s midfielder Yuri Zhirkov was awarded his second yellow.
Matjaz Kek kept the same eleven as he started in Moscow, whilst Russian boss Guus Hiddink brought in Lokomotiv Moscow’s Renat Yanbaev at left back and moved Yuri Zhirkov further forward to the left side of midfield.
Slovenia’s late goal in Moscow, gave the European country a lifeline as they began with real purpose. Whereas, the Russian’s started to look shaky and unconfident as the game progressed. This was shown as early as the fourth minute when a through ball from Birsa cut open the Russian defence allowing Milivoje Novakovic to drill a shot at goal but his finish lacked confidence as it was drilled in to the keepers hands.
Even though Russia lacked in defence, the match didn’t lack Russian chances. As only two minutes later, Sergei Ignashevich shot rebounded off the post.
As the clock ticked towards forty five minutes, the home supporters came alive inspiring an excellent goal for Dedic who put the home side in front (as you see to the left).
Shortly after the break, Russian boss Hiddink introduced Sergei Semak and Aleksandr Kerzhakov for Pavlyuchenko and Yanbaev. With a ticket to the finals still in reach, Russia’s night went from bad to worse when a straight red was shown to Kerzhakov for a ridiculous foul on Slovenian goalkeeper Handanovic.
As the game neared its end, a determined Russian wanted to change the outcome Yuri Zhirkov. He soured into the box to hit a volley which was beat away by Kerzhakov. The ball, which came to Dedic, became an unbelievable chance for Slovenia to make it two. Whilst at the other end, Vasili Berezutsky came close to finding an equaliser when he volleyed a close range shot over the bar. With ninety minutes on the clock, the dramatic world cup play-off game produced a second red card in the form of to yellows for Yuri Zhirkov following an incident with a Slovenia substitute. After the whistle was blown, the game ended with a final score of 1-0 to Slovenia.
After an all-round excellent performance, I believe that Slovenia deserved the win as they were the better side. Although Slovenia weren’t the favourites, yet again this match proves that anything can happen in the Fifa World cup. If you like to know see more of the final minutes of this match, why not watch them below.
(c) Oliver McGrath & Blogsfc
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