Serbia 1- Republic of Ireland 0
By: Mark Szczuka and Cillan O’Conchuir
Ireland’s World Cup qualification hopes suffered a huge setback with a 1-0 defeat to Serbia which saw them drop to third in Group D. Their fate is now out of their hands as Martin O’Neill suffered his first home loss in his reign as Ireland manager.
In a disappointing opening half, Shane Duffy, who scored against Georgia on Saturday, thought he had opened the scoring 10 minutes in, but his effort was ruled out for offside.
Martin O’Neill then saw Shane Long cut in from the left but he shot wide, while at the other end Darren Randolph was called into action, diving low to deny Aleksandar Mitrovic who poked an effort towards goal after Serbia carved Ireland open 33 minutes in.
As Ireland went to the break level, and Wales tied 0-0 away to Moldova, Ireland were in second place, two points behind Serbia and two points ahead of Wales.
But things changed 10 minutes into the second half when Aleksandar Kolarov rifled an effort in off the crossbar, leaving Randolph with no chance.
In a sometimes fiery affair Nikola Maksimovic saw red with 22 minutes remaining as he took down Daryl Murphy as the last man, while Robbie Brady and James McClean picked up yellow cards which will rule them both out of Ireland’s next qualifier against Moldova.
It led to an Irish onslaught for the remainder of the match, but McClean (twice) and Conor Hourihane shot wide and Murphy had an effort saved by Vladimir Stojkovic.
The defeat leaves qualification unlikely, as Ireland fall a point behind Wales and five points behind Serbia with two games to play.
O’Neill’s men face Moldova, with Wales travelling to Georgia on the next matchday. A finale between the two in Cardiff could give Ireland hope, but there is a chance that neither qualify as one of the nine second-placed teams won’t qualify for Russia 2018.
2018 World Cup