Slovenia snatch pole from Swedes

Slovenia 2-1 Sweden
Dejan Lazarevič's 82nd-minute penalty put the hosts top of Group 2 and left Sweden with work to do in their final qualifier against Ukraine.

Slovenia can celebrate at least a top-two finish
Slovenia can celebrate at least a top-two finish ©Primož Lovrič

Sweden have it all still to do against Ukraine in their last UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifier on Monday after Slovenia scripted a dramatic late twist in the chase for top spot in Group 2.

Dejan Lazarevič's 82nd-minute penalty in Maribor secured a vital 2-1 win for the Slovenians in their final qualifier, lifting them to the group summit, one point clear of Sweden and three ahead of Ukraine, and ensuring themselves at least second place. It means a tense night beckons on Monday when they must wait on the result between Sweden and Ukraine in Kalmar, where only victory will be enough to win either team the group at Slovenia's expense.

For Hakan Ericson's visitors, it was a frustrating conclusion to a night where they looked set for a point after recovering from Robert Berić's 44th-minute opener. That first goal came after Karl-Johan Johnsson, Sweden's goalkeeper, had saved an Enej Jelenič volley, conceding a corner. When the ball came over, Berić's header was stopped by Johnsson but the NK Maribor forward reacted first to turn in the loose ball.

The Swedes should have equalised immediately but Rasmus Jönsson missed with the goal gaping after Erdin Demir's header had teed him up. Undeterred they found a new gear in the second half and pushed for an equaliser; it came after 61 minutes when Jakob Johansson converted after a scramble.

With Slovenia wobbling, Sweden looked poised to do more damage yet instead Tomaž Kavčič's hosts somehow came back into the game and grabbed what proved the winner when Miiko Albornoz handled Kevin Kampl's ball into the box and Lazarević tucked away the ensuing spot kick. Even then, Sweden should have snatched a point but home goalkeeper Elvis Džafić denied Mikael Ishak after he broke through and then kept out a Niklas Hult shot deep into added time.