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Rediff.com  » Sports » Euro qualifiers: Swiss script remarkable rally against stout Slovenia

Euro qualifiers: Swiss script remarkable rally against stout Slovenia

Last updated on: September 06, 2015 14:07 IST

'It was a crazy game where we had the bit of luck that we didn't have in Slovenia'

Switzerland's Josip Drmic (right) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Slovenia during their Euro 2016 group E qualification match at the St. Jakob Park stadium in Basel, Switzerland on Saturday

IMAGE: Switzerland's Josip Drmic (right) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Slovenia during their Euro 2016 group E qualification match at the St. Jakob Park stadium in Basel, Switzerland on Saturday. Photograph: Ruben Sprich/Reuters

Switzerland, having looked as if they could play all night without scoring, struck three times in a remarkable last 14 minutes to come from 2-0 down and beat Slovenia 3-2 in a Euro 2016 qualifier on Saturday.

Milivoje Novakovic and Bostjan Cesar netted either side of halftime as Slovenia took control of the Group E game against the error-prone hosts who were jeered off at halftime.

But two goals from Josip Drmic, including the winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time, and one by fellow substitute Valentin Stocker gave the Swiss a memorable victory.

Breel Embolo, 18, the other Swiss substitute, also played a key role in the first goal as coach Vladimir Petkovic's second-half changes paid off handsomely.

"It was a crazy game where we had the bit of luck that we didn't have in Slovenia," Petkovic told SRF television, referring to Switzerland's 2-0 defeat in Maribor in October.

The win left the Swiss second in the group and clear favourites to follow England through while Slovenia must now battle for third spot, and a place in a two-legged playoff, alongside Estonia and Lithuania.

Petkovic's men have 15 points from seven games while Slovenia are fourth on nine points, below Estonia (10) who beat Lithuania (six) by a 1-0 margin. England (21) qualified after crushing San Marino 6-0 earlier on Saturday.

Switzerland's Valon Behrami argues with Slovenia's goalkeeper Samir Handanovic (left)

IMAGE: Switzerland's Valon Behrami argues with Slovenia's goalkeeper Samir Handanovic (left). Photograph: Ruben Sprich/Reuters

The Swiss dominated the first half but struggled to create openings and were then caught on the break as Novakovic dinked the ball over Yann Sommer on the stroke of halftime.

Cesar headed in from a corner three minutes after the restart to leave the Swiss floundering and Sommer prevented a third with a superb stop denying Josip Ilicic.

Swiss frustration showed as Ricardo Rodriguez and Xherdan Shaqiri wasted good attacks with poor crosses.

Stocker came on in the 80th minute and, almost immediately, the three substitutes combined to put the Swiss back in the match.

Stocker fed Embolo, his clever flick set Drmic clear and he held off his marker to beat Samir Handanovic.

The Swiss were level four minutes later when Shaqiri pulled the ball back and Stocker levelled.

Then, in the last move of the game, Slovenia lost possession as they tried to play out of their own half.

Switzerland poured forward and Fabian Schaer's shot was deflected into the path of Drmic who grabbed the winner.

Spain go top despite misfiring Costa

Spain's Diego Costa (right) is challenged by Slovakia's Kornel Salata (left) and Norbert Gyomber

IMAGE: Spain's Diego Costa (right) is challenged by Slovakia's Kornel Salata (left) and Norbert Gyomber. Photograph: Eloy Alonso/Reuters

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has given strong backing to Diego Costa even after the Chelsea forward drew another blank in Saturday's Euro 2016 qualifying victory at home to Slovakia.

Holders Spain leapfrogged the Eastern Europeans to the top of Group C thanks to a 2-0 success in Oviedo but Costa again failed to score and has netted just one goal in eight appearances since opting last year to play for La Roja instead of his native Brazil.

The 26-year-old did win a penalty, converted by Andres Iniesta after Jordi Alba's early header, but otherwise struggled to make any impact on Slovakia's well-drilled defence before making way for Paco Alcacer 15 minutes from time.

"Of course I would like him to score but he did some good work," Del Bosque told a news conference.

"Against a team playing so defensively the player who has the most difficult job is the one in his position," he added.

"He moved well, he kept the defenders busy. We have to be patient. A lot of the time when he gets the ball he has his back to goal."

With seven of 10 matches played, Spain and Slovakia each have 18 points, with the Spanish, who lost 2-1 in Zilina in October, top due to a better head-to-head record.

Ukraine, who won 3-1 at home to Belarus earlier on Saturday and are assured of at least a playoff berth, are third on 15 points, 11 ahead of Belarus and Luxembourg.

The nine group winners and runners-up and best third-placed side qualify for the finals in France, while the eight remaining third-placed teams contest playoffs for the last four berths.

Spain travel to Skopje to play bottom side Macedonia in their next qualifier on Tuesday, when Slovakia host Ukraine.

Jovetic on target as Montenegro keep slim hopes alive

Stevan Jovetic continued his impressive start to the season when he scored the second goal as Montenegro beat Liechtenstein 2-0 in a Euro 2016 qualifier on Saturday to keep alive their slim hopes of reaching the finals.

Fatos Beciraj volleyed Montenegro ahead in the 38th minute from Jovetic's cross and the pair combined again early in the second half when Beciraj provided the cross for the Inter Milan forward to control and fire home.

Jovetic has found a new lease of life since joining Inter on loan from Manchester City, scoring three goals in his first two Serie A games this season.

Montenegro are fourth in Group G with eight points, three behind Russia, and still have an outside chance of clinching third place which earns a two-leg playoff for a place in France.

However, they would have to beat Russia away and hope the Russians drop further points in their remaining games to have a realistic chance.

Liechtenstein are fifth with five points.

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