Belgium defeated Slovenia 3-1 to record their first win in UEFA European Under-17 Championship Group B but missed out on qualification for the semi-finals by a point.
Though both sides knew only victory would suffice, the Netherlands' goalless draw with Poland means it is those two who head for Ljubljana. Siebe Schrijvers, still only 15, gave Belgium the perfect start, but the hosts were soon level through Petar Stojanovič. The second half, though, was one to forget for Slovenia, who fell behind again to Pieter Gerkens' effort before losing Domen Črnigoj and Emir Dautovič to red cards. Tuur Dierckx completed their misery in added time.
After 160 minutes without a goal at the finals, Belgium broke their duck just 65 seconds in, Schrijvers racing in behind the Slovenia defence and, with Gregor Zabret in no man's land, finishing with aplomb. Backed by a vocal Maribor support, however, the hosts did not buckle and were level on 13 minutes when Stojanovič fired firmly across Lucas Pirard.
Such an emphatic finish marked a changing of the tide; hitherto unruffled and in charge, Belgium were suddenly rattled. Slovenia nearly went in front almost immediately but Črnigoj's effort was blocked by Sébastien Locigno, while Stojanovič then went close to adding a second but Pirard was this time out to close the angle and block his shot.
But it was Belgium who emerged with more adventure after the interval and it was no surprise when Peter Klinkenberg's side went in front. Gerkens, a silky presence in midfield throughout the tournament, latched on to Schrijvers' cute through ball and volleyed in on the rebound from the narrowest of angles after his initial effort had been parried by Zabret.
Though Dierckx then struck a post and scored a third in added time, Slovenia had proven to be the architects of their own downfall as Črnigoj and Dautovič received their marching orders in the space of three minutes.