Zlatko Zahovic was the inspiration as Slovenia cruised to a 3-1 victory against Israel that took them closer to a place in the play-offs.
The Slovenia captain had a hand in all three home goals in Ljubljana. The No10 helped his side score twice in quick succession in the first half through Ermin Šiljak and Aleksandrs Knavs before his late pass allowed Nastja Ceh to hit the goal of the night.
Slovenia now have 13 points from six UEFA EURO 2004™ Group 1 games, leaving them five behind leaders France and five ahead of Israel. A point from either of their last two matches against France on Wednesday or Cyprus next month would guarantee at least a top-two finish.
Zahovic was eager to get forward at every opportunity and in Ceh, found someone willing to match his adventurous spirit. Despite plenty of desire, the away side could not find a way through. Slovenia's breakthrough finally came in the 35th minute. Zahovic lined the ball up on the right of goal before sending in a free-kick that reached Šiljak. He hooked the ball goalwards and, although Avi Nimny thought he had cleared, the referee ruled the whole of the ball had crossed the line.
Barely a minute later and it was two. From an identical position, Zahovic's centre was met by a majestic header from Knavs that gave Shavit Elimelech no chance. Yossi Benayoun tried to get an instant reply only for Ceh to clear.
Nevertheless, Israel started the second half well and were nearly rewarded three minutes after the restart when Benayoun went close with a superb flicked header. However, Zahovic and Ceh were always a menace and were quick to join their side's attacks whenever possible.
Zahovic nearly scored in the 66th minute. A delightful cross from Ceh was met by the SL Benfica man on the volley, but the shot was saved. Yet Israel got their goal three minutes later. The lively Alon Harazi pushed forward before pulling the ball back for Haim Revivo to slot in from close range.
In the 78th minute, Ceh raced clear on a counterattack. Zahovic went with him and the two worked a sublime one-two before Ceh volleyed into the corner of the net. Israel were down and out and sloppy challenges from Nimny and Tal Ben Haim, that led to red cards, typified their frustration.
Slovenia coach Bojan Prašnikar said: "Israel are a team who force you to play hard. My players did just that so we deserved the three points." Israel coach Avraham Grant said: "We started playing very ambitious football but we did not have the luck. Free-kicks won the game for Slovenia."