BASEL (Reuters) – Switzerland, having looked as if they could play all night without scoring, struck three times in a remarkable last 14 minutes to come from 2-0 down and beat Slovenia 3-2 in a Euro 2016 qualifier on Saturday.
Milivoje Novakovic and Bostjan Cesar netted either side of halftime as Slovenia took control of the Group E game against the error-prone hosts who were jeered off at halftime.
But two goals from Josip Drmic, including the winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time, and one by fellow substitute Valentin Stocker gave the Swiss a memorable victory.
Breel Embolo, 18, the other Swiss substitute, also played a key role in the first goal as coach Vladimir Petkovic’s second-half changes paid off handsomely.
“It was a crazy game where we had the bit of luck that we didn’t have in Slovenia,” Petkovic told SRF television, referring to Switzerland’s 2-0 defeat in Maribor in October.
The win left the Swiss second in the group and clear favourites to follow England through while Slovenia must now battle for third spot, and a place in a two-legged playoff, alongside Estonia and Lithuania.
Petkovic’s men have 15 points from seven games while Slovenia are fourth on nine points, below Estonia (10) who beat Lithuania (six) by a 1-0 margin. England (21) qualified after crushing San Marino 6-0 earlier on Saturday.
The Swiss dominated the first half but struggled to create openings and were then caught on the break as Novakovic dinked the ball over Yann Sommer on the stroke of halftime.
Cesar headed in from a corner three minutes after the restart to leave the Swiss floundering and Sommer prevented a third with a superb stop denying Josip Ilicic.
Swiss frustration showed as Ricardo Rodriguez and Xherdan Shaqiri wasted good attacks with poor crosses.
Stocker came on in the 80th minute and, almost immediately, the three substitutes combined to put the Swiss back in the match.
Stocker fed Embolo, his clever flick set Drmic clear and he held off his marker to beat Samir Handanovic.
The Swiss were level four minutes later when Shaqiri pulled the ball back and Stocker levelled.
Then, in the last move of the game, Slovenia lost possession as they tried to play out of their own half.
Switzerland poured forward and Fabian Schaer’s shot was deflected into the path of Drmic who grabbed the winner.
(Writing by Brian Homewood,; Editing by Tony Jimenez)