Serbia 2-2 Republic of Ireland
Daryl Murphy’s late header snatched a point for the Republic of Ireland as they drew 2-2 with Serbia in their opening 2018 World Cup Qualifier in Belgrade this evening.
Jeff Hendrick got the visitors off to a perfect start when he struck home in the third minute for his first international goal, although Serbia capitalised on their pressure when Filip Kostic equalised an hour later.
Serbia went ahead seven minutes later as Jon Walters fouled Kostic inside the box with Dusan Tadic converting the spot kick, before Murphy’s header ten minutes from time sealed a point for Martin O’Neill’s men.
The Boys in Green are next in action on October 6 when they host Georgia in their second World Cup Qualifier.
The Republic of Ireland got off to a great start as Hendrick struck early on. A Robbie Brady free kick was flicked into his path by Shane Long. The Burnley midfielder took aim and fired home from the top of the box. The ball did however take a deflection off Branislav Ivanovic on its way towards goal.
But it was Serbia who had the better chances of the half, with Seamus Coleman forced into on-the-line defending in the 23rd minute as a Tadic free-kick bounced off a number of heads inside a crowded box and nearly scrambled past the Everton defender, but he booted the ball to safety.
Ten minutes later, it was another packed Ireland box that saw Serbia go close as Nemanja Gudelj crossed in from the left, but Aleksandar Mitrovic and Matija Nastasic found themselves tangled together.Fortunately Hendrick was in the mix and did enough to get the ball to trickle past the post.
Mitrovic was involved again on the stroke of half-time as Tadic – who controlled Serbia’s attacking play throughout the game – found Antonio Rukavina on the right of the box. His cross was palmed away by Darren Randolph and nearly fell to Mitrovic, but John O’Shea and Coleman managed to scramble it away.Ireland went into the break with a narrow lead.
Serbia started the second half as they finished the first, and went close in the 58th minute as Ivanovic fired a cross into the box for Mitrovic, who managed to poke the ball into the path of Tadic. The Southampton man took aim despite the Ireland defence closing in, but his effort just curled wide of the top corner.
But once the goals started for the hosts, they came thick and fast with their equaliser coming four minutes later as Ivanovic found Tadic in the middle of the box. The Saints winger looped the ball over the head of O’Shea to find the unmarked Kostic who tapped home.
The hosts went ahead not long after as Walters was controversially deemed to have tripped Kostic inside the box with the referee pointing to the spot. It was an easy conversion for Tadic, who slotted home to give the hosts the lead.
Serbia could have made it 3-1 with 16 minutes to play as Filip Mladenovic fired from the top of the box.Randolph spilled the shot into the path of Pavlovic but he smacked the rebound onto the underside of the crossbar much to the relief of the West Ham keeper.
The near-miss seemed to have spurred Ireland into life as they hunted for an equaliser and they thought they had it when Walters headed home from a Hendrick cross but it was ruled out for offside, however the all important equaliser came six minutes later.
Murphy was on the pitch just four minutes when he rose to head home his first international goal and the leveller. The Newcastle striker found himself unmarked and powered the ball past goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic from a Brady corner.
The home side came close to snatching the winner through captain Ivanovic who had a chance cleared off the line by Coleman.Nevertheless the Republic of Ireland held on for what could yet be a vital point.
Republic of Ireland: Darren Randolph; Seamus Coleman, Richard Keogh, John O’Shea, Stephen Ward (Stephen Quinn 71); Glenn Whelan, Jeff Hendrick (Daryl Murphy 76), Robbie Brady; Jonathan Walters, James McClean, Shane Long (Ciaran Clark 90+2)
Serbia: Predrag Rajkovic; Branislav Ivanovic, Matija Nastasic, Jago Vukovic; Antonio Rukavina, Filip Mladenovic (Dusko Tosic 76), Luka Milivojevic, Nemanja Gudelj; Filip Kostic (Aleksandar Katai 81), Dusan Tadic, Aleksandar Mitrovic (Andrija Pavlovic 59)
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hun)