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Switzerland held in Slovenia

The tackle that led to Switzerland's first goal

(Keystone)

Switzerland were held to a 2-2 draw in Wednesday's World Cup qualifying match in Slovenia. Enzo Trossero's men took the lead twice but were unable to hold on for what would have been an impressive three points.

The first half of the match was a scrappy affair with English referee Paul Durkin easily the busiest man on the pitch. With neither side able to muster a decent shot in open play, the best of the early opportunities came from free kicks.

A heavy tackle on Kubilay Türkyilmaz by Slovenian defender Aleksander Knavs allowed Switzerland to take the lead, although the goal itself owed as much to the Slovenian keeper as to Türkyilmaz's dead ball skills.

The Swiss striker curled the ball accurately over the Slovenian wall and Mladen Dabanovic seemed perfectly placed to catch the shot. But as the keeper knelt to embrace the ball it squirmed underneath his gloves before slithering across the goal-line.

Having paid an embarrassing price for one clumsy tackle, the Slovenians were soon to face further punishment from the referee at the other end of the pitch. Having already picked up one yellow card Slovenian midfielder Amir Karic was dismissed in the 38th minute for diving in the Swiss area.

There was still time in the first half for the 10 men of Slovenia to pull themselves level and, once again, it was a free kick that led to the goal. Euro 2000 star Zlatko Zahovic swung the ball high into the area and onto the head of the Swiss-based Slovenian Ermin Siljak.

The Servette Geneva striker skilfully nodded the ball into the net to send the home crowd wild. In the dying moments of the half the Slovenians came close to taking the lead, Ales Ceh hitting Zuberbühler's post with a well-judged strike.

Slovenia carried the momentum into the start of the second half with Ales Che forcing Zuberbühler into a diving one-handed save. But after weathering the initial flurry it was the Swiss who again took the lead.

A powerful close range strike from Stéphane Chapuisat sent Dabanovic sprawling to the ground. But as the ball bounced off the keeper's body, Türkyilmaz raced in to steal his second goal of the night.

The Swiss striker's 32nd international goal marked an historic milestone, bringing him level with Xam Abegglen's all-time Swiss record. But the goal itself wasn't to be enough to bring Switzerland an historic win.

As the match approached its end the home side increased the tempo and, after coming close on several occasions, finally got their reward.

Displaying the skills that had served the team so well at the European championships, Zahovic neatly backheeled the ball to a waiting Acimovic who smashed it into the Swiss goal from a metre outside the area with just 10 minutes left to play.

A frantic closing period saw both sides squander chances to win the match. First Dabanovic managed a double save to deny Türkyilmaz his hat-trick. At the other end Zuberbühler was twice forced to smother the ball under close-range pressure from the Slovenian forwards.

The final whistle brought an end to a second half infinitely more exciting than the first. But for both teams the result itself appears far less satisfying.

After failing to win at home, Slovenia fell further behind the group leaders Russia. Switzerland on the other hand were left to consider how close they had come to an important away win against a 10-man opposition.

swissinfo with agencies


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