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Cesar sparks Slovenian celebrations

Saturday, 9 October 2004

[1] A late goal from Bostjan Cesar gave Slovenia a famous victory against Italy that lifts them above the Azzurri to the top of Group 5.

Winning goal

[2] The substitute rose unchallenged at the far post to head Nastja Ceh's free-kick past Gianluigi Buffon, thus ending Italy's 100 per cent qualification record - having been in the ascendancy for much of the game.

Woodwork struck

[3] Slovenia had come close to taking the lead when Gianluca Zambrotta headed against his own crossbar in the first half. Italy also struck the goal frame at the right end when Luca Toni came off the substitutes' bench to send a powerful shot against the crossbar with almost his first touch.

New-look attack

[4] Toni was a replacement for Alberto Gilardino, who formed a new look partnership in Italy's attack, linking up with Mauro Esposito, who was making his debut. Such changes were forced upon the Italy coach Marcello Lippi with Christian Vieri and Alessandro Del Piero sidelined through injury.

Duo denied

[5] However, both Gilardino and Esposito were left to rue missed opportunities. Early in the first period Gilardino's outstretched boot failed to divert Mauro Camoranesi's right-wing cross goalbound, and moments later the Parma FC forward was denied by a smart save from Borut Mavric.

Ineffective Totti

[6] Esposito was then afforded a sight of goal midway through the second half, but his angled drive from 12 metres struck the side-netting. It was to be his final contribution as moments later he was replaced by Stefano Fiore. Lippi also recalled Francesco Totti, who was making his first international appearance since UEFA EURO 2004™, but the AS Roma forward was kept quiet by the home defence.

Šiljak fires over

[7] Slovenia's most potent attacker, Milenko Acimovic, was also expertly shackled by the Italian backline, but that did create space for fellow forward Ermin Šiljak. The Dalian Shide FC striker turned away from Fabio Cannavaro, but his shot from close-range flashed over Buffons right-hand upright.

Cesar sparks celebrations

[8] But Cesar did soon find the net as he stole in to head a goal that sparked scenes of celebration in Slovenia and gave the home side cause for optimism ahead of their match in Norway on Wednesday. Italy, now a point behind, take on in-form Belarus the same night.

Bostjan Cesar celebrates his late winner