Slovenia claimed all three points in a tightly contested affair as Algeria goal-keeper Faouzi Chaouchi allowed a Robert Koren shot to slip through his gloves and into the Algeria net in what was the second goal-keeping error in the first round of Group C matches.
Slovenia and Algeria entered the pitch at the Peter Mokaba stadium knowing that three points would see either of them topping World Cup group C on Sunday night. The two unfancied teams had expectations heightened by the 1-1 stalemate of England and the USA on Saturday night.
Before the game, much of the talk was centred on Algeria manager Rabah Saadane’s decision to drop the captain Yazid Mansouri to the bench for this; Algeria’s opening game of World Cup 2010.
The match kicked-off with the sun shining down on the crisp green turf of the Peter Mokabo stadium, with the earliest chance being a free-kick from Portsmouth’s Nadir Belhadj, a left-footed strike that swerved and dipped but was tipped over by Slovenia ‘keeper Samir Handanovic.
The earliest stages of the tie featured little quality with counter-attacking chances for both Algeria and Slovenia wasted due to passes being over-hit and finding their way to the opposition, meaning that any momentum was lost and few chances were created.
The willingness and technical ability of Nadir Belhadj provided the greatest source of acting impetus for the Algerian side, whereas Slovenia looked to create chances with short neat passing through creative midfielder Robert Koren.
The opening twenty minutes saw Algeria striker Rafik Djebbour’s frustrations mount. The lone striker system relied heavily on the running of Djebbour, however, the quality of delivery into the AEK Athens striker was poor, and therefore, much of his effort was in vain.
The half hour mark passed with the score at 0-0 as each team’s attacking play was cancelled out by the other’s organised defence as Algeria’s five-man midfield inhibited Slovenia’s short passing.
Algeria threatened with set pieces again as Karim Ziani whipped a right-footed free-kick into the area causing panic and confusion in the Slovenia defence until, eventually, the ball was fumbled out for an Algeria corner.
Rafik Halish had the greatest chance of the first thirty five minutes from a corner. The centre-half had a free header in the Slovenia box, but headed wide of Handonovic’s left hand post, relieving the Slovenia defence of a short period of Algerian pressure.
Slovenian forward Walter Birsa played a neat one-two with midfielder Robert Koren, before unleashing a tremendous swerving strike at the Algeria goal. Algeria goal-keeper Faouzi Chaouchi was equal to the striker climbing high to tip the Jabulani out for a Slovenia corner.
The referee signalled the end of the first half with a shrill peep on the whistle as each team trudged of the pitch awaiting the managers’ team talks and the start of the second period.
The referee signalled the beginning of the second half as Algeria’s most famous son Zindedine Zidane was spotted in the crown. Unfortunately, for Algeria, he opted to play for France.
The first significant action of the second period saw an Algeria cross fired in from the right, attempting to find the run of Djebbour but the striker was unable to control and a heavy first touch of the chest resulted in the ball rolling out of play for a Slovenia goal-kick.
Belhadj again threatened with a left footed delivery as Halish strained to reach the ball the Slovenia ‘keeper Handanovic, sporting a cap, plucked the ball out of the air and safely into his gloves. Another comfortable safe from Handanovic as Portsmouth loanee Hassan Yebda fired a time shot in the direction of the Slovenia goal.
Substitute Abdelkader Ghezzal’s first impact on the game was to receive a yellow card from the referee for a tempestuous tug on Slovenian defender Bostjan Cesar. The former West Bromwich Albion defender now plies his trade in France with Grenoble.
Accurate short passing saw Milivoje Novakovic put through on goal but a commanding sliding challenge from Algeria defender Majid Bougherra inside the penalty are eliminated the threat from Slovenia and allowed the ball to be cleared by Halish.
Substitute Ghezzal was then promptly dismissed for attempting to control the ball with his hand inside the Slovenia penalty area. The striker received his second yellow card along with his marching orders to limit Algeria to ten men and to ensure that the striker would play no part in their next fixture.
The match remained fairly uneventful after the dismissal but the chorus of Vuvuzela’s rang aloud to ensure a South African undertone was added to the affair.
Panic and miscommunication in the Slovenian defence ensued as Handanovic played a short pass to centre-back Marko Suler. The centre-back was slow to anticipate and Ziani stole the ball before being neutered by the relieved Handanovic.
The Algeria ‘keeper Chaouchi then produced a mistake of his own from a fairly tame shot from Slovenian midfielder Robert Koren. Chaouchi contrived to allow the ball to slip through his gloves and into the corner of the net to give the Slovenians a narrow lead.
The remaining moments of the contest were played out with relative inactivity as the Chaouchi mistake seemed to have removed any fighting spirit from the Algeria players. Algeria did manage to strike some long balls into the Slovenia box but the defence remained resolute in guarding the goal.
The result leaves Slovenia top of Group C with England and the USA left to play. Algeria meanwhile langish at the bottom of the group with a slim chance of progressing.