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Major shock for Hiddink

Slovenia's Zlatko Dedic scores against Russia

Slovenia's Zlatko Dedic scores against Russia. Photo: AP

Slovenia reached the 2010 World Cup finals at the expense of nine-man Russia thanks to Zlatko Dedic's 44th-minute goal on a dramatic night in Maribor.

The Bochum striker toe-ended in Valter Birsa's cross a minute before half-time in what proved to be the game's only goal to spark jubilant scenes at the Gradski Vrt stadium.

Russia, who had Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Yuri Zhirkov sent off in the second half, were left to rue some poor defending and an overall disjointed performance.

Matjaz Kek kept the same eleven that started the match in Moscow, whilst Guus Hiddink brought in Lokomotiv Moscow's Renat Yanbaev at left back and moved Yuri Zhirkov further forward to the left side of midfield.

The late goal in Moscow had handed Slovenia a lifeline and they began the game with real purpose, whilst the Russians, having let a commanding two-goal cushion slip, looked nervy and disjointed, particularly in defence.

The warning signs were there for Hiddink as early as the fourth minute, when a simple through-ball from Birsa inexplicably cut open the Russian defence and allowed Milivoje Novakovic a clear sight of goal, but his finish lacked confidence and was straight at keeper Igor Akinfeev.

Six minutes later there was a huge let-off for Russia when Andraz Kirm's cross from the left struck the leg of the hapless Sergei Ignashevich, who saw the ball rebound off the post with Akinfeev motionless.

Dedic then beat Yanbaev to a deep cross from Novakovic, but his header lacked power and Akinfeev gathered comfortably.

As the clock ticked towards half-time, the home support erupted as Dedic got behind two Russian markers to turn in Birsa's cross and give Slovenia the lead at the break.

Hiddink made two changes at half-time, bringing on Sergei Semak and Aleksandr Kerzhakov for Pavlyuchenko and Yanbaev.

But Russia's night went from bad to worse when the Dinamo Moscow striker was shown a contentious red card by Norwegian referee Terje Hauge on 66 minutes.

Zhirkov's cross from the left was whipped in dangerously towards Kerzhakov, who got the better of his marker and slid in on goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, appearing to make a legitimate stab at the loose ball.

The challenge was interpreted as dangerous play by the referee, and closer inspection of the incident also appears to show Slovenia defender Bostjan Cesar strike Kerzhakov in the face, while goalkeeper Handanovic chipped in with a retaliatory hand aimed at the striker.

Hiddink reacted by throwing on another striker, Pavel Pogrebniak, in place of Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and the Stuttgart man almost made an immediate impact with a 12-yard header from Arshavin's cross that was held by Handanovic.

As the game neared its dramatic climax, Zhirkov soared into the penalty box and hit a volley that was beaten out by Handanovic.

The ball was immediately cleared downfield to Dedic, who drilled a glorious opportunity wide, whilst at the other end Vasili Berezutsky came closest to finding an equaliser for Russia, volleying over from close range following Ignashevich's flick.

There were more ugly scenes in stoppage time as Zhirkov was shown a second yellow card following an altercation with a Slovenia substitute on the by-line.

Seconds from the end Novakovic had a further glorious chance to put the icing on the cake, and the final whistle brought scenes of jubilation, with Russia ultimately left to pay the heaviest of prices for not finishing the match off on Saturday.

Slovenia rejoice

Slovenia rejoiced after beating Russia in their World Cup play-off to clinch a spot in the finals for the second time.

"Our wish, our goals, our dreams came true. I congratulate, (and) bow to our boys," an overwhelmed Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek said at a news conference. "This is a happy end in line with Hollywood scenarios. We deserved to win. The boys deserve respect, they left their heart out for Slovenia.

"My philosophy, which was accepted by players, is that I am not interested in individuals in my team and even less in the individuals of the opposite team. We showed that we can beat the best players in the world by an organised defence. For us the only important thing was a team and how we will win over Russia."

Kek also accused his Russian counterpart Guus Hiddink of not shaking his hand after the match. "Mr Hiddink is one of the best coaches, a big gentleman and I believe that today is not easy for him but I also deserve a handshake," he told reporters, adding that he had not spoken with the Dutchman since the match ended.

Former Slovenia striker Zlatko Zahovic also praised the team's collective spirit. "This time Slovenia totally outplayed Russia," Zahovic told local television. "Russians are excellent individualists but collective spirit prevailed.", November 18, 2009

Slovenia 1 - 0 Russia

Scoring Summary
Zlatko Dedic (44)

Match Information
Stadium: Petrol Arena, Maribor
Attendance: 13,500
Match Time: November 18, 2009, 19:45 UK
Official(s): T. Hauge (Referee)

Slovenia Russia
1 Samir Handanovic 1 Igor Akinfeev
5 Bostjan Cesar 4 Sergei Ignashevich
2 Miso Brecko 5 Vasili Berezutsky
4 Marko Suler 2 Aleksandr Aniukov
13 Bojan Jokic 18 Yuri Zhirkov
18 Aleksandar Radosavljevic 13 Renat Yanbaev
8 Robert Koren 17 Konstatin Zurianov
17 Andraz Kirm 6 Diniyar Bilyaletdinov
9 Zlatko Dedic 7 Igor Denisov
10 Valter Birsa 10 Andrei Arshavin
11 Milivoje Novakovic 9 Roman Pavlyuchenko
12 Jasmin Handanovic Vladimir Gabulov 12
3 Matej Mavric Denis Kolodin 3
6 Branko Ilic Igor Semshov 8
16 Dalibor Stevanovic Sergei Semak 11
7 Nejc Pecnik Alan Dzagoev 15
15 Rene Krhin Alexander Kerzhakov 16
9 Zlatan Ljubijankic Pavel Pogrebniak 14
Nejc Pecnik for Valter Birsa (78)
Alexander Kerzhakov for Roman Pavlyuchenko (45)
Dalibor Stevanovic for Zlatko Dedic (90)
Sergei Semak for Renat Yanbaev (45)
  Pavel Pogrebniak for Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (77)
Yellow Cards
Valter Birsa (55)
Yuri Zhirkov (8)
Samir Handanovic (67)
Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (22)
Robert Koren (76)
Igor Denisov (72)
Red Cards
  Alexander Kerzhakov (66)
  Yuri Zhirkov (90)
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