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Football: Things could turn Nastja if we let playmaker dictate the game; SLOVENIA ..............3 MOLDOVA ..............0.

Byline: Mark GUIDI in Ljubjana

SLOVENIA midfielder Nastja Ceh inspired his team to a well deserved victory and fired a warning to watching Scotland boss Berti Vogts. The talented 26-year-old Brugges star ran the show for Branko Oblak's side and set up a hat-trick for attacking midfield partner Milenko Acimovic.

The watching Vogts will have realised Slovenia have the ability to come to Hampden on Wednesday night and win - a result that would end the German's 30 months in the Scotland hot seat.

Ceh - with his untidy head of blond hair - reminds you of Czech Republic superstar Pavel Nedved and is a joy to watch.

His talented left foot opened up the Moldova defence countless times and when he was subbed in the final minute he left to a standing ovation.

Ceh's the man Slovenia coach Oblak will rely on at Hampden. He'll need to be stopped.

However, despite his talent there is no need for Scotland to go into Wednesday's game with an inferiority complex.

Vogts' troops are more than capable of getting their own campaign off to a flier. But it will take something special and it remains to be seen if they are capable of producing the display needed to see off Slovenia.

Oblak's men lined up in a 4-4-2 formation and all their players looked comfortable in it.

Their midfielders were composed on the ball but were sometimes guilty of trying the impossible when an easier option was on.

The strike partnership of Ermin Siljak and Zlatko Dedic offered plenty of movement and the Moldovan defence struggled to cope with their pace and energy.

However, the front duo were too keen to impress at times and were caught offside more often than they should have been.

The Slovenians could sense goals were there for the taking against a country ranked 104th in the world.

And it took the home side just five minutes to take the lead. Ceh found Acimovic at the edge of the box and a tidy shimmy fooled central defender Valeri Catinsus.

It left the midfielder with a clear shot on goal but it was a weak effort with the inside of his right foot. There was no danger for Moldova keeper Evgheni Hmaruc but he let it slip home under his body.

Ceh continued to exert his influence and the Moldovans just couldn't pin the livewire playmaker down.

Impressive left-back Amir Karic - who was on trial at Hibs two years ago - then whipped in a perfect cross for Siljak but he failed to connect with only Hmaruc to beat.

Former Spurs player Acimovic didn't disappoint in 28 minutes when he made it 2-0. Ceh crossed perfectly to the back post and the tall midfielder rose above everyone to head high into the net from eight yards.

The game was embarrassingly one sided now and Parma striker Dedic - on loan to Empoli for the season - missed an excellent chance when he was put clean through.

He should have easily slotted home the third but his first touch was shocking and the keeper raced out to smother the ball.

It wasn't all doom and gloom for Vogts who watched from the stand with under-21 gaffer Rainer Bonhof.

Slovenia - ranked 46th in the world, 21 places ahead of Berti's boys - look decent in attack and play some attractive stuff on the deck. But they are suspect at the back and will struggle against a better side than Moldova.

Giant keeper Borut Mavric looks like an imposing figure and a man of his size should command his box.

However, he is a nervous wreck when cross balls are delivered into the danger area. The panic is clear to see.

Luckily for him he was well protected by his two huge centre-backs, Matej Mavric and skipper Aleksander Knavs.

Right-back Jalen Pokorn doesn't look comfortable when defending and there is no doubt James McFadden could cause him all sorts of problems.

However, he kept his side two goals ahead when he cleared an overhead kick from Serghei Rogaciov off the line three minutes before the interval.

It was 3-0 after 48 minutes when Acimovic ghosted in unmarked at the back post to crash home Ceh's cross and seal his hat-trick.

Moldova created a couple of chances from long range. Lurie Miterev rattled a free-kick off the bar then Boris Cebotari had a 25-yard effort tipped over by Mavric.

The win was thoroughly deserved and a crowd of 2552 went home happy thanks to the deadly duo of Ceh and Acimovic.

CAPTION(S):

Food for thought: Vogts and Bonhof watch classy Slovenia rip Moldova to shreds; Ceh mate: Slovenia could leave Scotland without a prayer if classy playmaker Nastja Ceh turns it on like he did last night against Moldova
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 5, 2004
Words:791
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