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Žigić earns Serbia draw with Slovenia

Serbia 1-1 Slovenia
Nikola Žigić struck four minutes from time to cancel out Milivoje Novakovič's opener and keep Serbia unbeaten in Group C.

Milan Jovanović (left) of Serbia vies with Slovenia's Valter Birsa
Milan Jovanović (left) of Serbia vies with Slovenia's Valter Birsa ©Getty Images

Nikola Žigić struck four minutes from time to ensure Serbia maintained an unbeaten start to UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group C.

The Birmingham City FC forward's goal came as a huge relief to the hosts after Slovenia had gone ahead through Milivoje Novakovič on 63 minutes, his opener underlining the visitors' desire to bounce back from Friday's 1-0 home defeat by Northern Ireland. Novakovič and Co were nonetheless made to settle for a draw as Serbia moved second in the section following their opening 3-0 success in the Faroe Islands.

It soon became clear that Slovenia coach Matjaž Kek was adopting a cautious approach to the match, soaking up pressure from Serbia and looking to counterattack, but it was his own goalkeeper Samir Handanovič who needed to be alert early on to deny Zdravko Kuzmanović from 30 metres out.

At the other end, Zlatko Dedič met Andraž Kirm's fine cross only for the ball to fizz narrowly past the post. Dedič then enjoyed the best chance of the first half when he was sent clear on goal, but faced with just goalkeeper Andjelko Djuričić the striker was denied.

The away side continued to pose a threat after the break and Valter Birsa pounced on a slip by Serbia left-back Aleksandar Luković, requiring Nemanja Vidić to race back and help out his team-mate. Despite that intervention, Slovenia soon went ahead when Kirm fed Novakovič to open his account for the campaign.

Victory was not to be Slovenia's, however, as Žigić pounced to turn in Antonio Rukavina's cross on a day when the former Yugoslavia's all-time top scorer Stjepan Bobek was honoured following his death last month. Estonia will be the next side to visit Belgrade on 8 October, when Slovenia welcome the Faroe Islands.