'Lots of positives' for King after Duffus strike provokes Serbia backlash
Rep of Ireland U-21 1 Serbia U-21 3
After having the temerity to take the lead, Ireland's U-21s suffered a Serbian backlash last night at the Waterford RSC in their concluding Euro qualifier.
Noel King's side were already out of contention to reach their first major finals but Serbia's quest to secure a play-off spot looked rocky when a first international goal for Courtney Duffus put Ireland ahead four minutes into the second half.
Back came the Serbs, a side dominated by their U-20 World Cup champions, and though Liam Bossin denied them from the penalty spot, they netted twice in three minutes midway through the second half and added a late third.
"We matched a top-quality side for an hour but eventually got caught out by their class,' said King. "But there were lots of positives for us."
Chances were exchanged in an evenly-contested first-half with Alan Browne's back-post header forcing a smart save, while Bossin was at full-stretch down the other end to deny Uros Durdevic.
Liverpool midfielder Marko Grujic had a quiet first-half and his mistake four minutes after the restart gifted Ireland the opener.
A crossfield pass was intercepted by Harry Charsley who released his Everton clubmate Duffus through on goal and he found the bottom corner with a low shot.
Serbia's pressure yielded a penalty on the hour when Eoghan O'Connell tripped Durdevic yet the Partizan striker saw his spot-kick saved by Bossin.
The equaliser did, however, arrive on 64 minutes after substitute Nemanja Mihaijlovic latched onto a lofted pass and finished from eight yards.
Three minutes later, Mijat Gacinovic fired in the rebound after Bossin kept out Durdevic's close-range header.
Not even the introduction of prolific Cork City striker Sean Maguire could force an equaliser for Ireland and two minutes from the end they were exposed when Sasa Lukic broke to stroke past Bossin.
IRELAND - L Bossin (Anderlecht); D Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), E O'Connell (Celtic), T Hoban (Blackburn), K O'Connor (Cork City); A Browne (Preston NE), J Cullen (Bradford City); H Charsley (Everton), J Byrne (Blackburn), O Shodipo (QPR); C Duffus (Everton). Subs: J Mulraney (Inverness) for Byrne, S Maguire (Cork City) for Duffus (both 72), S Kavanagh (Fulham) for Shodipo (79).