Wednesday 22 January 2020

Tadic strikes to send Serbia top of table

Serbia 3 Austria 2

Martin Hinteregger (L) of Austria in action against Branislav Ivanovic (R) of Serbia (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
Martin Hinteregger (L) of Austria in action against Branislav Ivanovic (R) of Serbia (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

John Fallon

Serbian football has witnessed enough false dawns to exercise caution, but victory over one of their chief rivals last night presents an early initiative in Ireland's World Cup qualifying group.

Although they lost the lead twice in Belgrade, the Serbs eventually brought an end to Austria's 13-match qualification unbeaten run in style through Dusan Tadic's winner with 16 minutes remaining.

Austria will now want to regain their qualification ambitions on November 11 when Ireland visit Vienna, the same night Serbia travel to Wales without the suspended Aleksandar Kolarov, but with his Premier League colleague Nemanja Matic returning from a three-match ban.

A frenetic first-half exemplified the best and worst of Serbia. Brilliant in attack, they were easily exposed in defence, often by their own errors.

While one Mitrovic, Aleksandar, excelled up front by grabbing a brace, his namesake, Stefan, was a disaster waiting to happen at the back.

Thankfully for manager Slavoljub Muslin, his front trio caused havoc- just as they had against Ireland four weeks ago.

Filip Kostic's movement dazzled the Austrians, the creativity of Tadic was in full flow, while Mitrovic displayed a finishing touch belying his measly return of just four goals in his previous 23 international appearances.

The Newcastle striker was at his best on six minutes in applying a first-time finish to Tadic's cut-back after Austria were caught square from Kostic's flick-on.

Marko Arnautovic blazed over an eighth-minute sitter, but Austria were soon gifted an equaliser.

On 15 minutes Stefan Mitrovic allowed Florian Klein's cross to bobble off his foot straight to Marcel Sabitzer, who rocketed a low shot beyond goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic from 10 yards.

Serbia regained the lead on 23 minutes following another incisive attack down the right. After Mitrovic sprayed a pass wide to Tadic, he timed his run into the box perfectly to head home the Southampton man's pinpoint cross for his second.

Seven minutes after the restart Arnautovic skimmed the post with a header, but made a more telling impact by setting up the second leveller of the night on 62 minutes.

The Stoke City man wriggled through a clutch of defenders to get a shot on goal and, though Ramazan Ozcan saved from point-blank range, Janko followed up to tap in his 28th international goal.

Roared on by the boisterous home support, Serbia responded. Mitrovic almost had his hat-trick on the hour only for a good save, but Tadic made no mistake when drilling a low half-volley home following Aleksandar Kolarov's pass.

Irish Independent

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