Siljak's strike gives Slovenia home advantage
Sunday 16 November 2003
Ermin Siljak, Slovenia's top scorer in their European Championship campaign, was on target again midway through the first half of their play-off against Croatia in Zagreb as his team earned a 1-1 draw to take back to Ljubljana on Wednesday.
In front of a 35,000 crowd at the Maksimir Stadium, a disappointing Croatia went ahead after only five minutes through Dado Prso, the Monaco striker who scored four in his club's 8-3 Champions League win over Deportivo La Coruña recently and is coveted by several Premiership clubs. Prso beat goalkeeper Mladen Dabanovic with a tap-in set up by an Ivica Mornar header from Niko Kovac's free-kick.
But Slovenia, who had suffered only two defeats during their qualifying campaign, both against their group's comfortable winners, France, fought back and Siljak headed the equaliser. But he will miss the return after being booked.
Otto Baric, the Croatia coach, sent on midfielders Milan Rapaic and Giovanni Rosso at the start of the second half, and Darijo Srna on the hour, as the home side tried to build a lead for the second leg. But Slovenia's only other alarm came when Prso's header was blocked by Dabanovic and a post.
Baric remains confident. "It wasn't a day for our forwards, but I know exactly what to do to improve our chances in Slovenia," he said. "It does not matter that we play the decisive game away because our defence will be stronger [Bayern Munich's Robert Kovac returns from suspension] and we are certainly capable of scoring in Ljubljana." But with the away goals rule in operation, a 0-0 draw on Wednesday will give the Slovenians a third major tournament appearance in four years after Euro 2000 and the 2002 World Cup .
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