Inspired Serbia snatch a last-gasp draw against Slovenia | Football News - Hindustan Times
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Inspired Serbia snatch a last-gasp draw against Slovenia

Jun 20, 2024 09:38 PM IST

Luka Jovic’s 95th minute header ensured the Eagles remained in contention for a round of 16 berth

There were plenty of reasons for Serbia’s players to be fired up going into their Group C game against Slovenia on Thursday. Earlier in the week, the Football Association of Serbia had been charged by Uefa for inappropriate behaviour by their fans during the clash with England. They then threatened to pull out of the Euros and accused Croatia and Albania fans of hateful chanting. It was a lot of noise but not for the right reasons.

Serbia's Luka Jovic celebrates after scoring his side first goal during a Group C match between Slovenia and Serbia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Munich, Germany(AP)
Serbia's Luka Jovic celebrates after scoring his side first goal during a Group C match between Slovenia and Serbia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Munich, Germany(AP)

On the pitch, Serbia lost their opener to England, one of the tournament favourites, but the character they showed to not concede in the second half would have given them confidence. And before kickoff against Slovenia, a message from tennis legend Novak Djokovic, the most famous Serbian athlete, was played on the big screen inside the Allianz Arena in Munich to provide the final bit of motivation.

All of it resulted in an inspired performance by Serbia as they scored in the 95th minute to snatch a 1-1 draw with Slovenia. Luka Jovic’s header into the bottom corner, which was the final play of the match, ensured the Eagles remained in contention for a round of 16 berth. Slovenia’s players and fans were left with a look of disbelief. They gave it their all but it wasn’t enough as their opponents simply refused to accept defeat.

Slovenia, who themselves scored a late equaliser in their opening game against Denmark, began aggressively and dominated most of the first half. Jan Mlakar forced an early save from Predrag Rajkovic, before Timi Max Elsnik hit the post with a powerful shot.

But Serbia continued to endure the waves of attacks and finally created a chance of their own in the 42nd minute as Aleksandar Mitrovic managed to poke a shot on target.

The start of the second half, though, was a different story as Serbia created three chances within the first five minutes. Mitrovic was denied from close range again by Atletico Madrid ‘keeper Jan Oblak. Jaka Bijol then nearly miscued a clearance into his own goal, before Mitrovic headed another chance just over.

However, Slovenia didn’t take too long to earn back the momentum. Benjamin Sesko hit a fine curling shot from distance but Rajkovic was up to the task and produced an equally impressive save.

Finally, in the 69th minute, the deadlock was broken thanks to a stunning effort by Zan Karnicnik. The right-back picked up the ball from deep in his own half and cut in to make a powerful run down the field. He then found Elsnik on the left wing who played a well-weighted pass to the far corner where Karnicnik had reached to finish off the clinical move. Minutes later, Karnicnik produced another heroic effort to deflect Mitrovic’s shot onto the post from inside the six-yard box.

Even as Slovenia’s fans rejoiced in the stands in the anticipation of a first-ever victory at the Euros, Serbia kept believing and hunting for an equaliser. And they finally found one in the most dramatic fashion as Jovic slotted home the ball from Ivan Ilic’s corner to close out the match. The AC Milan striker had his shirt tugged but remained composed to get his header on target.

“It is of course amazing to score like this, but I would easily change that for the win,” said Jovic after the game. “I am happy that we secured the first point and kept ourselves in the game. Heads high and full focus on Denmark now.”

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