LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Slovenia celebrated a 1-0 home win over more heralded neighbours Croatia in their opening 2022 World Cup Group H qualifier on Wednesday after Sandi Lovric struck in the 15th minute to sink the 2018 tournament runners-up.
Midfielder Lovric beat Croatia keeper Dominik Livakovic with a heavily deflected shot from 15 metres five minutes after Croatia forward Nikola Vlasic had hit the post at the other end when he was through on goal.
Croatia dominated the match but looked disjointed in midfield and up front, and were lucky not to fall further behind when Livakovic kept out an Andraz Sporar effort after Ivan Perisic almost scored an own goal.
At the other end, Slovenia keeper Jan Oblak had a largely quiet evening, easily smothering tame efforts from Domagoj Vida and Mislav Orsic.
The home team's substitute Blaz Kramer missed an 89th-minute sitter that would have made it 2-0 before Slovenia hung on comfortably in stoppage time.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic conceded his side had played well below par and stressed they were now under pressure.
"Congratulations to Slovenia, while we put in a poor performance and deserved nothing more from this game," Dalic told Croatia's Nova television.
"Slovenia looked more aggressive and motivated as we could only create a handful of half-chances which came to nothing. There is no more room for error but our heads won't drop, we'll move on and we have to improve."
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Toby Davis and Clare Fallon)