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Dublin: 9°C Sunday 16 May 2021
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Serbia 3-2 Ireland

Hello, and welcome to tonight’s liveblog on a big night for Irish football.

With Portugal widely expected to top the group, second place — which would keep World Cup qualification hopes alive — is likely to be between Serbia and Ireland.

Consequently, it is a vital game for Stephen Kenny’s side. A loss would already leave qualification looking somewhat unlikely, while a win would be a significant boost for the Boys in Green.

A draw, however, would surely be considered an acceptable result, given the number of players currently missing from Ireland’s squad through injury.

It won’t be easy, though, against a Serbia side who most people would agree have the superior players to choose from on paper.

Confirmation of tonight’s teams…

Some pre-match reading for you…

A good omen perhaps?

enda-stevens-and-matt-doherty Ireland's Enda Stevens and Matt Doherty ahead of the game. Source: Nikola Krstic/INPHO

We’re underway…

Decent start by Ireland.

An Alan Browne corner is driven in low. It comes off Clark — not sure he knew much about it — and goes just wide.

Lukic plays a dangerous through ball.

Coleman is alert though. He is quick to intercept before it goes out for a corner.

Tadic’s corner finds the head of Pavlovic, but the Irish defender just does enough to stop him getting a clear effort on goal.

After a good start by Ireland, Serbia are now having a decent spell.

The game has settled down after a lively opening.

Serbia are starting to dominate possession, but Ireland are defending with discipline and forcing their rivals to largely play it in front of them.

Out of nothing, Ireland are ahead.

It’s a really well-worked goal with patient build-up play.

Eventually, Robinson hangs a lovely cross in and Browne makes a great leap before producing a perfect header into the corner of the net.

Tadic plays a dangerous ball in from a free kick that Doherty has to blast out for a corner.

The former Southampton man is seeing plenty of ball and looks Serbia’s most creative player and their biggest threat.

Serbia have had 67% possession so far.

Nevertheless, for all their success in that department, the hosts have struggled to create clear-cut chances.

Tadic plays a dangerous through ball towards Djuricic.

However, Coleman is alert again and slides the ball out for a corner.

There’s momentary worry as Josh Cullen goes down injured, but it looks like he’ll be okay to continue.

The Anderlecht man has looked like one of Ireland’s best players so far.

alan-browne-celebrates-after-scoring-a-goal-with-aaron-connolly Ireland's Alan Browne celebrates after scoring a goal with Aaron Connolly. Source: Nikola Krstic/INPHO

Serbia are level!

A header through from Tadic finds Vlahovic, who peels off the shoulder of O’Shea and tucks it neatly into the corner of the net.

A fine finish from the Fiorentina man.

Danger again for Ireland.

A low cross finds Djuricic, but Clark does well to put the block in and prevent him getting a clear attempt on goal.

Moments later, Tadic slips through that man again, Djuricic, but Travers gets down well to make the save from close range.

Ireland are under the cosh a bit here and will be happy to hear the half-time whistle.

So overall, it was a decent 45 minutes for Ireland, especially given the less-than-ideal circumstances going into this game.

Alan Browne, Josh Cullen, and Seamus Coleman have been particularly good.

The backline in general was looking really solid until the goal, when Ciaran Clark failed to win the header and Vlahovic was just a bit sharper than O’Shea in reacting.

Serbia struggled to create many chances, but were starting to look really dangerous towards the end of that opening 45, and so Ireland will be happy they now have a chance to rest and regroup.

And the biggest positive, of course, is that they have ended a goal drought that lasted more than 11 hours, thanks to Alan Browne’s really well-taken goal, which has provided a much-needed confidence boost.

Serbia make a change at half-time.

Kostic replaces Mladenovic in a straight swap on the left.

The second half is underway…

Serbia are beginning the second half as they ended the first — on the front foot.

Ireland again are set up to play on the counter.

Ireland go close!

Doherty gives a quick throw to Robinson.

The West Brom star’s low cross looks for the onrushing Connolly, but the defender just does enough to prevent him turning the ball goalwards.

Connolly goes down in the box under a challenge from Mitrovic.

Much to the frustration of the Irish players, the referee only awards a corner, as he feels the defender got the ball, but replays suggest Ireland may have been unfortunate not to get a penalty there.

nikola-milenkovic-with-jayson-molumby Serbia's Nikola Milenković with Jayson Molumby of Ireland. Source: Nikola Krstic/INPHO

It’s now Serbia’s turn to appeal in vain for a penalty.

It would have been harsh, as Coleman appeared to slip, with Vlahovic then falling over him as he chased the ball.

Down the other end, Ireland work it to Doherty, but Connolly can’t get a touch on the Spurs man’s low cross.

Moments later, Clark gets a touch on Browne’s corner, before O’Shea heads it just wide.

This game is really finely balanced.

Ireland make a change.

Jeff Hendrick is coming on in place of Molumby, who has worked hard and had a decent game.

Let-off for Ireland. Milenkovic’s effort goes just wide, with a sliding Vlahovic nearly touching it in.

Serbia then make a double change – Mitrovic and Maksimovic are on, while Djuricic and Racic are off.

Meanwhile, Connolly is down with cramp and may need to be substituted.

Another change for Ireland.

Shane Long replaces Connolly, who had been a doubt before the game.

RTÉ informs me that it’s the Tipperary native’s 86th cap.

As I type, Tadic’s free kick finds Vlahovic, who can’t head on target.

Serbia take the lead and it’s a stunning goal.

Tadic plays through Mitrovic, who is just off the bench, and with a first-time effort, the striker lobs Travers exquisitely from the edge of the area.

aaron-connolly-is-tackled-by-aleksandar-mitrovic Ireland's Aaron Connolly is tackled by Aleksandar Mitrović of Serbia. Source: Nikola Krstic/INPHO

Tadic is the orchestrator again.

His clipped cross finds the head of Mitrovic, who leaps above Clark and heads home.

That’s surely game over now.

Serbia make another change.

Gudelj is on for Tadic.

Ireland now make a triple change.

Browne, Robinson and Clark are off, while Collins, McClean and Brady are on.

Another change for Serbia.

Vlahovic is replaced by Jovic.

Doherty can’t get a clean header on McClean’s cross.

Just to confirm, those changes do not mean a switch of formation.

Stevens is now the left-sided centre-back, while McClean is at wing-back.

Long latches on to a stray Mitrovic header.

He then sets up Collins, who has an easy tap-in to an open goal with the ‘keeper stranded.

Ireland have a lifeline all of a sudden. Now can they get a dramatic equaliser?

Alan Browne has been named man of the match by RTÉ.

Seamus Coleman and Josh Cullen can’t have been too far behind him.

A Robbie Brady cross is headed away for a corner.

One minute left.

So that’s that.

Ireland’s opening World Cup qualifier ends in disappointment.

There were some positives. After going over 11 hours without scoring a goal, Ireland managed two tonight.

Alan Browne, Josh Cullen and Seamus Coleman were among the best performers.

Overall though, Serbia probably deserved it.

They had greater strength in depth, as indicated by the fact they could afford to leave Mitrovic, who hit a brace, on the bench initially.

Tadic, meanwhile, was the best player on the pitch and gave Serbia the kind of creative edge that Ireland all too often lack.

Qualifying will be an uphill task now, with reigning European champions Portugal still to play twice.

Right, that’s all from me for now.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

We’ll have plenty more reaction to follow.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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