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Football

Italy are shocked by Cesar header


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Slovenian players celebrate scoring the goal that beat Italy

CELJE, Slovenia -- A header by Bostjan Cesar eight minutes from time gave Slovenia a famous 1-0 win over Italy in their World Cup qualifier.

It was Italy's first World Cup qualifying defeat since May 1993 when they lost in Switzerland - a campaign which saw them qualify safely and go on to reach the final.

Slovenia now lead Group Five with seven points from three matches, one ahead of Italy who had won their first two games.

Italy looked the better side in the first half though almost fell behind when Fabio Cannavaro headed against his own crossbar while defending a corner kick.

In a scrappy second half Italian substitute striker Luca Toni hit the bar from close range just seconds after coming on form Mauro Esposito but it was Cesar who proved the hero.

Norway back on track

Norway got their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track but left Scotland's chances flailing as a second-half penalty by Steffen Iversen secured a 1-0 win for the visitors.

Norway had lost to Italy and drawn at home to Belarus in their first two Group Five games and desperately needed the three points.

But they were secured by a 53rd-minute spot kick after James McFadden had handled Claus Lundekvam's goalbound header on the line.

McFadden was sent off for the handball, leaving the Scots with an uphill task that they were unable to accomplish.

Iversen had earlier saved his country in the first half when he cleared a Richard Hughes effort off his own line with the Scots claiming the ball had crossed the line.

At the end of a frantic match, Norway became the first side to win a World Cup qualifier at Hampden Park in 19 years and moved to four points from three games.

Scotland, held at home by Slovenia in their first game, are already in real trouble with only one point.

Scotland coach Berti Vogts was sent to the stand for arguing with Belgian referee Paul Allaerts at halftime and he must raise his side for Wednesday's match at bottom-placed Moldova where another failure could see the end of the German's stint in charge.

Saturday's game could have gone either way with both sides creating some decent early chances.

Norway striker John Carew evaded his marker and should have netted when he headed narrowly over four minutes later while Scotland, who looked busy and determined, thought they had gone ahead when Iversen cleared from Hughes with his standing foot behind the line.

Norway should have killed if off after 75 minutes when substitute Morten Gamst Pedersen somehow knocked the ball over the bar over with goalkeeper Craig Gordon beaten.

It didn't matter in the end, however, as they held out without any scares to secure their first win over the Scots in 10 attempts going back to 1963.

"I was pleased with the win but a bit surprised Scotland weren't more aggressive and they were a little bit flat in midfield," said Norway coach Age Hareide.

"It became very difficult for them once they went down to 10 men."

Hareide refused to rule them out of contention, however. "Scotland are still our strongest competitor for second place in the group along with Slovenia," he said.

"They can give teams problems at Hampden and might even beat Italy because they are not that good."

Meanwhile, Vogts added: "It was a very frustrating result for Scotland because the guys gave everything.

"But we have eight other matches to play and all we missed today was a goal. We now have to win in Moldova on Wednesday and on our performance today we will."


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