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Berić helps Slovenia overtake Estonia

Robert Berić scored his first goal for Slovenia to help his side overtake the visitors in Group E and put them on course for the play-offs.

FC Levadia players Artur Pikk, Ingemar Teever and Siim Luts played for Estonia while Sergei Pareiko, Dmitri Kruglov, Ilja Antonov and Igor Subbotin remained unused substitutes.

Slovenia jumped ahead of Estonia in their race for UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group E’s play-off spot as Robert Berić got the only goal of the game in Maribor.

Home coach Srečko Katanec predicted it would not be a pretty affair and he was proven correct in this battle for third place behind England and Switzerland. Berić’s early header was comfortably handled by visiting keeper Mihkel Aksalu while at the other end alarm bells rang for the hosts when Slovenia No1 Samir Handanovič cleared the ball straight at Ats Purje and the ensuing deflection narrowly missed the target.

Slovenia may have had ample possession but they failed to carve out anything of note, while Estonia’s Konstantin Vassiljev whistled a shot just over and Handanovič was forced into a sharp stop from Taijo Teniste.

Slovenia eventually responded with attempts from Branko Ilič, Valter Birsa and Kevin Kampl, the last mentioned elicited a lunging save from Aksalu. The pressure finally paid off in the 63rd minute when Birsa cut the Estonian defence open with a precise through pass to Berič, who waltzed beyond Karol Mets and sent a low strike into the corner to register his first goal for his country.

Estonia rallied and Vassiljev delivered a series of wicked crosses which Slovenia somehow managed to deal with, although Jasmin Kurtič might have finished things off when he fired into the side-netting. Instead, Magnus Pehrsson’s team pushed hard for the equaliser in the closing exchanges only to be denied by a stubborn Slovene rearguard action.