Slick Slovenia overwhelm Bulgaria to revive hope

Bulgaria 1-5 Slovenia
The visitors kept alive their slender hopes of advancing from Group 2 with an emphatic victory that all but ended Bulgaria's own aspirations.

Slovenia huddle
Slovenia huddle ©Ervin Čurlič

Slovenia kept alive their slim hopes of emerging from UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying Group 2 with an emphatic 5-1 victory against Bulgaria, whose own aspirations were dealt a significant blow.

Matej Pučko and Enej Jelenič registered either side of Aleksandar Kolev's 28th-minute equaliser to give the visitors a half-time lead. Slovenia went through the gears in the second half, midfielder Žan Benedičič and Elvis Bratanovič taking the game beyond Bulgaria, who had Milen Gamakov sent off with nine minutes left. Bratanovič compounded the hosts' misery by adding a fifth to lift Slovenia into third place.

Tomaž Kavčič's team began with optimism and intent, Pučko taking receipt of Haris Vučkič's through ball and finishing with aplomb. Bulgaria's response was swift, though, as Kolev headed in Edisson Jordanov's cross from the right. Slovenia restored their advantage six minutes later when Jelenič combined with Bratanovič to score from an acute angle.

The home side emerged rejuvenated after the interval, but were soon reeling after Georgi Milanov's free-kick bounced back off the Slovenian crossbar. Benedičič made no mistake at the other end, applying the final touch to a sweeping counterattack before Bratanovič made it four. The same player rounded off the scoring shortly after Gamakov had been dismissed by delicately lifting the ball over onrushing goalkeeper Aleksandar Konov.