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Ireland in dire need of a striker as Serbia win in Dublin

Kolorov breaks Irish hearts and almost the cross bar to give Serbia all three points.

10-man Serbia held firm to almost guarantee qualification for next years World Cup despite a much improved and spirited display from “The boys in Green”.

Following Saturday nights disappointing performance away at Georgia, Martin O’Neill’s troops looked to create another magical night at the Aviva hosting group leaders Serbia.

The raucous and jam packed home faithful must have felt their prayers were answered as Wes Hoolahan came into the middle of the park, along with David Meylor with Harry Artur and Glenn Whelan missing out, and the changes paid dividends almost immediately from kick off with the side playing with much more fluidity.

The fired up Boys in Green thought they had gotten another early lead with just under 10 minutes played. Saturday’s goal scorer, Shane Duffy, rose highest from a Wes Hoolahan whipped cross but much to the Brighton mans despair the flag went up for offside.

Serbia did well to weather the storm and were unlucky themselves following some very good wing play down the left wing from the fleet footed Filip Kostic, and but Aleksander Mitrovic could only prod the ball towards goal. Darren Randolph did well to get down to save and Ward cleaned up.

There were arguments the hosts could have done without the break and just nine minutes into the second half the visitors grabbed the lead against the run of play. Aleksandar Kolorav, after being teed up by Kostic, hammered home a left footed drive in off the crossbar giving Randolph no chance.

The home side’s response, just after the hour mark, was to replace Hoolahan with the towering figure of Daryl Murphy and go with two up top, much to the mixed reactions of the home fans as Hoolahan had been outstanding in the first half.

The Aviva faithful were given a massive boost when Nikola Maksimovic was shown a straight red for hauling down substitute Murphy who looked to have been through on goal. Replay showed he might have got the slightest touch on the ball.

Murphy and his teammates were incensed just 10 minutes later when there was a massive penalty shout. A delightfully clipped ball into the middle saw the pantomime villain of the evening Branislav Ivanovic have his hands all over the Nottingham Forest man.

With just five minutes remaining Ireland got the golden chance their hard work deserved but that man again, Murphy, saw his low drive blocked by the feet of Stojkovic when a yard either side of the keeper would have punished the 10 men.

It wasn’t to be the host’s night with Serbia showing grit and determination, along with gamesmanship, to see out the tie. But the fans, not just in the Aviva, but all over the country will be wondering if the team had shown this level of performance in previous game, they wouldn’t find ourselves in the predicament they find themselves now, sitting third in the group behind a rejuvenated Wales side and slim hopes of even getting a play-off place.

Rep. of Ireland: Darren Randolph, Cyrus Christie, Ciaran Clarke, Shane Duffy, Stephen Ward (Calum O’Dowda 72’), Wes Hoolahan (Daryl Murphy 61’), James McClean, Robbie Brady, David Meylor (Conor Hourihane 79’), Shane Long, Jon Walters (c)

Subs: Kieran Westwood (GK), Rob Elliot (GK), John O’Shea, Richard Keogh, Glenn Whelan, Daryl Horgan, Kevin Long, Johnny Hayes, Harry Arter.

Serbia: Vladimir Stojkovic, Antonio Rukavina, Branislav Ivanovic (c), Nikola Maksimovic, Jagos Vukovic, Aleksander Kolarov, Nemanja Matic, Luka Milivojevic, Filip Kostic (Stefan Mitrovic 72’), Dusan Tadic (Nemanja Gudelj 80’), Aleksander Mitrovic (Aleksander Prijovic 79’)

Subs: Aleksander Jovanovic, Predrag Rajkovic, Ivan Obradovic, Nemanja Gudelj, Matija Nastasic, Zoran Tosic, Mijat Gacinovic, Uros Spajic, Nemanja Radoja, Adem Ljajic

Referee: Cuneyt Cakir

Darryl Geraghty

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