Saturday, July 20, 2024

Serbia deny Slovenia first Euro win


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MUNICH, June 20: Serbia substitute Luka Jovic headed a last-gasp equaliser to cancel out Zan Karnicnik’s opener and salvage a 1-1 draw with Slovenia in an absorbing Group C clash at Euro 2024 on Thursday.
Both sides hit the woodwork and had periods where they dominated possession and created chances at the Munich Football Arena in a game that swung from end-to-end at times.
The result puts Slovenia in second place on two points with leaders England, who have three, to come in their final group game. Serbia, bottom with one point, next face Denmark, who also have one point and play England later on Thursday.
Slovenia remain unbeaten and still firmly in contention to progress to the knockout stage of the tournament. For Serbia, the point also bolsters their hopes of progressing.
Serbia manager Dragan Stojkovic praised Slovenia’s discipline and bemoaned the fact that despite creating 15 goal attempts his side did not score until almost the final whistle.“We created chances,” Stojkovic said. “It was incredible how the ball did not want to enter the goal.”(With Denmark) it will be us or them. We will play an open game.”
Just like in their 1-0 opening defeat against England, Serbia started slowly and handed the initiative to Slovenia whose first big chance came when Timi Elsnik hit the near post after dribbling into the box in the first half.
Slovenia broke the deadlock after the break with a brilliantly worked goal from man-of-the-match Karnicnik who put them on the brink of their first ever Euros win.
Slovenia had missed several good chances until right back Karnicnik drove upfield from the edge of his own penalty area, released the ball to Elsnik and then met the return cross to slot the ball past Predrag Rajkovic in the 69th minute.
Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek thanked his players for their efforts in what he called a great atmosphere but said they ran out of steam towards the end of the contest.
“Slovenia has shown that it has a place here at the European Championship,” Kek said. “Sport and football in general can be cruel but I believe karma will do its part for this team.“We have felt disappointment because we know how strong the Serbia players are. There was a bit of a lack of concentration, perhaps a bit of a lack of strength in the last minutes.”Serbia ratcheted up the pressure looking for an equaliser with veteran striker Aleksandar Mitrovic hitting the post, and they finally levelled when Jovic nodded home a corner five minutes into added time to leave their opponents distraught.
Serbia had failed to capitalise on periods of superiority despite the menace of Mitrovic, who saw a close range shot deflected by Karnicnik onto the woodwork, until Jovic struck.
“They were the better team in the first half but we prevailed in the second,” Mitrovic said. “We created a lot of chances and I was especially unlucky. We kept going until the end.”
In a match brimming with drama and intensity, Serbia’s last-minute heroics against Slovenia encapsulated the unpredictable nature of football. The 1-1 draw, marked by Luka Jovic’s dramatic equaliser, left fans on the edge of their seats at the Munich Football Arena. Slovenia, despite their disappointment, showcased their resilience and potential, maintaining an unbeaten record in Group C. For Serbia, this point is a lifeline, keeping their hopes alive as they prepare for a decisive clash against Denmark. Both teams will need to muster every ounce of strength and determination as they fight for a place in the knockout stages of Euro 2024.
As the group stage heats up, the tension is palpable with every match carrying immense weight. Slovenia’s disciplined play and Karnicnik’s standout performance demonstrate their growing prowess on the European stage. Meanwhile, Serbia’s relentless pursuit of an equaliser underscores their fighting spirit and refusal to bow out quietly.
With England looming for Slovenia and a crucial face-off against Denmark awaiting Serbia, the stakes could not be higher. The outcome of these final group games will not only determine the fate of these teams but also showcase the thrilling unpredictability and passion that Euro 2024 continues to deliver. (Reuters)


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