If his younger teammates can deliver, Goran Ivanisevic will lift the Davis Cup trophy today and take it home to Croatia for the first time.

Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic beat Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty and Michal Mertinak, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), yesterday in Bratislava, Slovakia, giving Croatia a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series between first-time finalists.

Croatia needs to win one of today's reverse singles -- Ljubicic will meet Hrbaty and Ancic will play Karol Kucera -- to clinch the title.

"It's definitely the most important match of my life, no question about that," Ljubicic said. "I have a little advantage because I've had a lot of these pressure matches."

Ivanisevic, the former Wimbledon champion, came out of retirement for the final, but captain Nikki Pilic did not select him for either the singles or the doubles, choosing to go with his younger players. With their win, Ljubicic and Ancic remain undefeated in Davis Cup doubles play this year.

* SOCCER: Hamburg SV's Alexander Laas was hit by a wooden drumstick thrown from the stands during his team's 3-1 victory over Cologne in the German Bundesliga, sending him to the sideline with blood streaming down his face.

"It still hurts, but I'll take it if we win," Laas said.

U.S. defender Steve Cherundolo helped Hannover 96 win at Borussia Dortmund for the first time since the 1964-65 season, catching the goalkeeper moving in the wrong direction and connecting off a cross for his first goal of the season. Cherundolo put his team ahead in the 16th minute of a 2-0 win. . . .

John Terry scored in the 62nd minute to give Chelsea a 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough in the English Premier League. Chelsea leads with 40 points, followed by Manchester United with 30. United defeated Portsmouth, 3-0, on goals by Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Liverpool won its sixth straight league game, with Peter Crouch scoring in a 3-0 victory over Wigan at Anfield. Liverpool improved to 28 points, good for third place. . . .

Ronaldo scored and David Beckham was ejected in Real Madrid's 1-0 win over Getafe in the Spanish league.

Beckham received a red card in the 57th minute for a tackle on striker Ivan "Riki" Sanchez-Rico. He exchanged angry words with Getafe Coach Bernd Schuster before he left through the players' tunnel.

* PRO FOOTBALL: The Dallas Cowboys released former Pro Bowl wide receiver Peerless Price, according to a report on the team's Web site.

Price, who signed a one-year, $1.8 million contract in September, played in seven games with one start for the Cowboys. He caught six passes for 96 yards and averaged 5.3 yards on 12 punt returns.

* BASEBALL: New York Mets ace Pedro Martinez hopes to suit up for the Dominican Republic at the World Baseball Classic -- but only if his injured right toe heals. The 16-nation, 18-day inaugural World Baseball Classic starts March 3 in Asia.

Miguel Tejada, the Baltimore Orioles shortstop, said he aims to play for the Cibaenas Eagles during the final week of the Dominican League regular season. . . .

Freddy Garcia, pitcher for the World Series champion White Sox, said yesterday he will pitch for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. . . .

Tom Gordon passed his physical and officially joined the Philadelphia Phillies.

-- From News Services

Hamburg SV's Alexander Laas, second from left, falls after being hit by a wooden drumstick thrown from the stands in a home Bundesliga win over Cologne. Laas's face was bloodied.