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Novakovič treble maintains Slovenia hopes

Slovenia 3-0 Norway
Milivoje Novakovič struck a hat-trick to make it four successive Group E wins for Srečko Katanec's men and keep their play-off hopes alive.

Milivoje Novakovič celebrates his hat-trick in the Stadion Ljudski vrt
Milivoje Novakovič celebrates his hat-trick in the Stadion Ljudski vrt ©AFP/Getty Images

Slovenia kept alive their hopes of pipping Iceland to second place in 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying Group E as Milivoje Novakovič hit a fine hat-trick to blow away Norway.

The hosts secured a national-record fourth straight competitive win as the forward struck twice in three first-half minutes before rounding off his treble shortly after the interval. Srečko Katanec's side must better the result of Iceland on Tuesday to usurp their rivals in second, but a trip to section winners Switzerland will not be easy while Norway host the Icelandic hopefuls.

The Slovenians were two up inside 15 minutes as Novakovič got his first 13 minutes in, converting after a perfect pass from Mišo Brečko on the right. In no time the lead was doubled, this time the ammunition being provided from the left as Andraž Kirm's cross was turned in from close range by the striker.

Daniel Braaten and Magnus Eikrem missed the target when presented with excellent chances to cut the deficit before the break and were punished four minutes after it – Novakovič raced away from the defence on the counterattack to slot in the third. Kirm was denied by Rune Jarstein as Slovenia looked to stretch their advantage while Braaten and Ola Kamara were unable to test Samir Handanovič again at the other end, leaving Slovenia still dreaming of a play-off spot.