Osterc's winner secures Slovenian advantage

Slovenia 2 Romania 1
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The Independent Football

Slovenia recovered from a goal behind to seal a narrow win over Romania in the first leg of their World Cup play-off here in their capital. Milenko Acimovic had scored the equaliser three minutes before half-time after Marius Niculae had put the Romanians ahead in the 26th minute.

Slovenia's recovery was completed 17 minutes from time when Milan Osterc struck the winner to give his team the advantage for Wednesday's return leg in Bucharest.

Romania started the match much the brighter side and could have been ahead after just five minutes when the Valencia striker, Adrian Ilie, broke clear but his shot from just inside the penalty area went over the bar.

Gheorghe Hagi's side kept the pressure up and were rewarded 21 minutes later when Niculae hit the opener. The Sporting Lisbon striker latched on to a Cosmin Contra cross and fired past Marko Simeunovic.

That sparked the home side to life, however, and Red Star Belgrade's Acimovic headed in a pass from Nastja Ceh, who had only just come on two minutes earlier to replace Ipswich's Amir Karic, to level.

The second half began in the same vein as the first, with Romania pressing the home side. Adrian Mutu had claims for a penalty turned down by the referee Kim Nielsen eight minutes after the restart when Miran Pavlin looked to have fouled the Romanian midfielder. But just like the first half the Slovenians upped their game and Osterc grabbed the crucial second goal in the 73rd minute.

Srecko Katanec's side managed to make up for the absence of their leading scorer Zlatko Zahovic, who is out of both games against Romania because of an abdominal injury. The defenders Aleksander Knavs and Spasoje Bulajic and the forward Sebastjan Cimirotic were also missing. ''A one-goal advantage will mean a lot in Bucharest but we still have to show some more aggression, as we did in the second half,'' Zahovic said.

Goals: Niculae (26) 0-1; Acimovic (42) 1-1; Osterc (70) 2-1.

Slovenia: Simeunovic; Milinovic, Vugdalic, Galic; Karic (N Ceh, 40), Novak, A Ceh, Pavlin, Acimovic (Pavlovic, 66); Osterc, Rudonja.

Romania: Stelea; Contra, Miu (Pancu 90), Iencsi, Chivu, Gheorghe Popescu; Sabau (Ghioane 84), Munteanu, Mutu; Niculae, Ilie (Rosu, 84).

Referee: K M Nielsen (Denmark).

Attendance: 9,500.

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