Aleksandar Kolarov’s early goal opened the scoring at the Aviva Stadium and turned out to be the winner for Serbia who will win Group D if they win in Austria in October.
On their own part, the Irish have dropped to third with Wales beating Moldova and will be forced to battle it out until the very end for a chance to grab Russian visa.
Here are the four things we learned from tonight’s match in Dublin:
Serbia Show Grit and Desire to Grab Three Vital Points
It wasn’t always the case with the Serbian national team, but the current side led by the experienced tactician Slavoljub Muslin is showing signs of great improvement.
Having missed out on last two major international competitions – the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and Euro 2016 in France – despite boasting a quality side packed with world-class players plying their trade in some of the biggest clubs in Europe, Serbia lacked much needed team spirit, but also grit and desire to grind out results when needed and composure to keep their heads cool when the heat turns up.
But with Slavoljub Muslin in charge it seems as if the mentality has changed overall as Serbia have been producing quality displays in Group D. Not exactly pitted within the strongest group, Serbia faced some familiar sides (Wales) and put up a fight to go unbeaten in eight matches thus far with a respectable goal difference of 17-7.
Ireland Had No Response to Serbia’s Organised Play
The game in Dublin ended with an evenly-spread possession, but the 49% Ireland and 51% Serbia do not paint the proper picture here.
The Serbian team was a more dominant one for the better part of the game and hadn’t it been for the 68th-minute red card for Nikola Maksimovic, the hosts would barely got closer to Vladimir Stojkovic’s goal. The Irish had no real response for Serbia’s organised style of play which saw midfielders and even Aleksandar Mitrovic as a lone striker drop deep back to hel in defensive duties.
Packed with quality in their backline, Serbia used all the power they had to fend off against the Irish advances in the closing stages however, when Serbia demonstrated some of the grit, desire and commitment to emerge victorious and grab vital three points.
Kolarov Continues Impressive Run of Form
The month of August has been rather good for former Manchester City left-back Aleksandar Kolarov. Having changed clubs during the summer transfer window, the experienced Serbia defender is coming off from a successful start to the new season.
The 31-year-old defender has today been voted AS Roma player of the month, quite deservedly as well. It took his only two competitive matches in the new Serie A season to steal the hearts of AS Roma fans. Kolarov scored on his debut against Atalanta, while he also put in a commanding display in the derby match against Inter Milan.
Kolarov continued his impressive run of form with a goal in Serbia’s 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Moldova on Saturday whereas his goal at the Aviva Stadium tonight comes as a just reward for his impressive stretch of play.
The AS Roma defender smashed Serbia in front with a fantastic strike which came odd underside of the bar leaving Randolph helpless.
Group D All but Settled with Two Games to Go
Three points in Dublin helped Serbia open a four-point gap at the summit of Group D. With Wales struggling in Moldova but still managing to grab a late win, the Republic of Ireland now drops to third place with only one point behind of the Dragons.
There are only two matches left to be played and it is fair to say that Serbia have the biggest chance to qualify as group winners, whereas Ireland and Wales will fight it out until the last moment for the second spot.
It could all come down to the very last match in the qualifiers for the two neighbouring countries who will go head to head in Cardiff on 9 October. Before this crucial match Ireland will play host to Ireland, whereas Wales travel to Georgia for another tricky test.
IRELAND: Randolph 7 – Christie 7, Duffy 6.5, Clark 6.5, Ward 6.5 (O’Dowda 6) – Hoolahan 7 (Murphy 6.5), Meyler 6 (Hourihane 6), Brady 7 – Walters 6.5, Long 6.5, McClean 6.
Unused subs: Arter, Elliot, hayes, Hendrick, Keogh, O’Shea, Westwood, Whelan.
SERBIA: Stojkovic 7 – Vukovic 7.5, Maksimovic 4, Ivanovic 7.5 – Rukavina 7, Milivojevic 7, Matic 8, Kolarov 8.5 – Kostic 6.5 (Mitrovic S. 6), Mitrovic A. 7 (Prijovic 6), Tadic 6.5 (Gudelj 6).
Unused subs: Dmitrovic, Gacinovic, Jovanovic, Nastasic, Obradovic, Radoja, Spajic, Tosic, Ljajic.
REFEREE: Cuneyt Cakir
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