Serbia 3-2 Ireland
The Republic of Ireland suffered defeat to Serbia in their first game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers after breaking a seven-game goalless streak yesterday evening.
Alan Browne and James Collins found the net in Belgrade on the night to add a touch of promise to the night.
The Irish set up in a 3-5-2 formation with two wingbacks against a rotated Serbian side under new management.
Serbia looked to gain the lion’s share of possession early on and did so with three successive corners going their way after captain Séamus Coleman stepped in to stop Dusan Tadic from opening the scoring.
The away side opened the scoring after 17 minutes when Callum Robinson made space for himself to tee up Alan Browne for a header from six yards after the midfielder began the attack higher up the pitch.
Serbia found it hard to regain their dominance immediately after the goal, with Ireland’s high press and defensive shape thwarting them.
The boys in green continued to look dangerous on the attack but Serbia’s reply came before a second for the Irish with Tadic flicking a ball from deep onto the promising Dusan Vlahovic who coolly slotted the ball past Mark Travers into the bottom corner.
The half ended minutes later with the scores level and the second half began with chances for either side.
Aaron Connolly went down in the box but the referee judged it not to be a foul and awarded Ireland a corner which they could not capitalise on.
Ireland avoided conceding a penalty of their own moments later after Coleman’s challenge on Vlahovic.
Jason Molumby was replaced after an hour of play with Jeff Hendrick coming on in place of him.
The Serbians started to assert dominance over Ireland with Vlahovic inches away from turning a wayward shot in and a number of changes for both sides occurred with Nicola Maksimovic, Aleksander Mitrovic and Shane Long getting minutes.
Mitrovic made an instant impact when he caught Travers off his line and chipped him from 35 yards out after combining with the creative Tadic.
The duo combined again five minutes later with the goalscorer nabbing his second of the night and tying the all-time Serbian national side record.
Tadic made it a hat-trick of assists with his pass.
However, the night was not over for Stephen Kenny’s men.
The former Dundalk boss made changes, bringing on three attacking substitutes in the shape of Robbie Brady, James McClean and James Collins to take the game to the Eagles.
The changes paid dividends in the 85th minute when Shane Long played James Collins in for a tap-in to bring the game with one but that was where the tie would remain.
Kenny’s men have now gone nine without a win under him but progress was made last night with twice as many goals as there were in the eight games before.
The attacking style has brought promise to the Stephen Kenny reign but results must follow or it will be pointless.
They face Luxembourg on Saturday night in their second qualifier where they will attempt to break their winless streak under the 49-year-old – which is already in double digits when looking beyond the current manager’s reign.
Time will tell whether tonight’s performance will lead to something but it already seems as if the boys in green are going to be playing catch-up with Portugal and Serbia this year.
An Focal MOTM: Dusan Tadic (Serbia)