Spain's Late Rally Stuns Yugoslavia

Published June 22nd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Spain's miracle-workers scored twice in injury-time to beat 10-man Yugoslavia 4-3 on Wednesday, as both sides reached the quarter finals of Euro 2000 after a heart-stopping finale. 

Spain, who needed a win to be sure of reaching the last eight from Group C, were facing elimination from the tournament as the regulation 90 minutes ended with Jose Antonio Camacho's side trailing 3-2. 

Slavisa Jokanovic, who plays his club football in Spain for newly-crowned champions Deportivo La Coruna, had been dismissed for picking up a second yellow card in the 63rd minute with the score at 2-2. 

But Yugoslavia, who have had a man sent off in all three matches at Euro 2000, were hit by a double-whammy during five memorable minutes of stoppage time. 

First they were rocked by an equalizing penalty converted by Gaizka Mendieta, despite protests from the Yugoslav camp, and then they were poleaxed by Alfonso's half-volley - his second goal of the evening. 

That earns Spain a mouth-watering tie with world champions France in the last eight while Yugoslavia will meet co-hosts Holland. 

Camacho, who only just avoided a repeat of Spain's first-round exit from France 98 under then coach Javier Clemente, said "all that counted was winning - whether we managed it in the first few minutes or in the last few. 

"Football is decided by goals - and we deserved to win." 

"It was a heroic match... the players believed they could qualify, they kept saying that there was still time." 

Matchwinner Alfonso said: "It was a very important, very emotional game. It was very difficult and we are very happy to have won and gone through." 

Yugoslav coach Vujadin Boskov paid tribute to both sides. 

"Spain were my favorites before the tournament started and after tonight they are back in that spot," he said. "I'd prefer to face France rather than Holland in the quarter-finals because I think we're more used to their game." 

Unfortunately for Boskov he did not get his wish.  

"My heart was going a bit in the first-half," said the 69-year-old. "But in the second half, I was calm." 

As for having three players sent off at Euro 2000, Boskov said it wasn't dirty play but a mixture of big mouths and national pride. 

"It's not three men, it's actually five if you count the qualifiers," he said. 

"I think that the players should keep their mouths shut and not talk, because they've picked up more yellow cards for verbal retaliation than for committing fouls as footballers. 

"But that's their temperament, that's the way they are. They get angry because they are very proud to play for their national team." 

Alfonso's winner was a stunning finish to a match which saw Spain punished for slack defending in the 31st minute as Savo Milosevic headed home - the Real Zaragoza striker's fourth of the tournament making him Euro 2000's top scorer. 

Spain were stung into action by the goal and leveled eight minutes later when Real Madrid star Raul fed the ball across the area and Alfonso tucked a left-foot shot past 'keeper Ivica Kralj into the right-hand corner. 

Two goals by substitutes in as many minutes then made for a flying start to the second half at the Jan Breydel Stadium. 

Ljubinkjo Drulovic, who had provided the earlier cross for Milosevic, squared the ball from the right and Dejan Govedarica had time to place a shot with his instep into the roof of the net. 

The highly vocal Yugoslav supporters burst into song but were silenced a minute later. 

Substitute Joseba Etxeberria ecaped down the right, picked out Pedro Munitis with his pass and the forward's shot clipped the inside of the left-hand post and flew in. 

But the red flares were being brandished again by the Yugoslav fans again in the 75th minute when the ball flew loose in a goalmouth scramble and defender Slobodan Komljenovic stretched out a boot to poke it home. 

It was not Yugoslavia's first revival at Euro 2000. They were 3-0 down to Slovenia after Mihajlovic had been sent off before rallying to a 3-3 draw during a six-minute spell in the second half. 

Against Norway, they had also finished with 10 men after substitute Mateja Kezman was sent off for a lunging challenge just 45 seconds after coming on. 

But this match was anything but finished as it headed into injury-time. 

Spain skipper Abelardo was tripped in the area by Govedarica and Mendieta cracked home the spot-kick. Two minutes later, Alfonso swiveled round for a waist-high half-volley into the back of the net through a packed goalmouth. 

Spain players celebrated at the final whistle, while several Yugoslav men looked devastated - before realizing that Norway's 0-0 draw with Slovenia meant that they too were through to the quarterfinals. 

Earlier the sending-off prompted a Yugoslav fan to run onto the field towards French referee Gilles Veissiere but Milosevic intervened and led the angry fan to the sidelines. 

Midfielder Vladimir Jugovic said: "One thing's for certain, the Yugoslav national side have played three matches that are more different and more entertaining than anyone else's at this tournament," - (AFP) 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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