The next seven days could all but secure European football for Shamrock Rovers in 2018.Sun, Sep 24 2017
The Republic's of Ireland's chances of reaching the World Cup in Russia next year appear greatly diminished after they fell to a 1-0 defeat to Serbia at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night.
Aleksandar Kolarov scored the game's only goal ten minutes after half time as the visitors' greater invention told on what was otherwise a promising, if somewhat toothless, Irish performance.
Martin O'Neill needed to make changes following the harrowing 1-1 draw in Georgia on Saturday, and he opted to bring in David Meyler and Wes Hoolahan for Glenn Whelan and Harry Arter in midfield.
Serbia coach Slavoljub Muslin, perhaps sensing that possession wouldn't be in short supply, went with an attacking 3-4-3 formation with Aleksandar Mitrovic flanked by Filip Kostic and Dusan Tadic.
It was Tadic who created the game's first chance following a slip by David Meyler, teeing up Nemanja Matic on the edge off the box, but the Manchester United's midfielder's side-footed was denied by a desperate block from Shane Duffy.
Duffy had the ball in the net for the third successive Ireland game when he nodded home Robbie Brady's cross but, as against Austria here three months ago, it was correctly ruled out, this time for offside.
Ireland were carved open once again by a quick-passing move involving Mitrovic and Kostic, with the latter stealing in down the left before Christie used his considerable pace to snuff out the danger at the expense of a corner.
Shane Long had Ireland's best chance of an open, but relatively uneventful opening 45 minutes as Walters sent him clear down the left-hand side and his shot from distance, though perhaps rising over the bar, was helped on its way by Vladimir Stojkovic.
Serbia's best chance arrived just after the half-hour as Christie was caught out by the inside run of Kostic and he pulled the ball back for Mitrovic, but the Newcastle United's striker's improvised effort was easily saved by Darren Randolph.
Good interplay involving Christie and Robbie Brady sent Hoolahan into the box at pace. He beat a challenge but a heavy touch allowed Branislav Ivanovic to nip across before he had a chance to pull the trigger.
Time appeared to stand still at the beginning of the second half as the Aviva Stadium timekeeper was late starting the stadium clock.
It mirrored action on the field as Ireland were slow to begin and Mitrovic's dummy allowed Tadic to pick out a shot within 30 seconds that, fortunately for Ireland, didn't worry Randolph.
Ten minutes into the second half, disaster struck as a well-worked goal put the Serbians in the lead.
A clever run from Mitrovic pulled Christie inside and, on Kostic picked out Aleksandar Kolarov on the overlap to smash the ball in off the crossbar.
Ireland were handed a huge slice of fortune 22 minutes from time as a long ball over the top was misjudged by Nikola Maksimovic and, in his desperate lunge for the ball, he caught Jon Walters.
Referee Cunyet Cekir reached for the red card as Walters was bearing down on goal when caught, but it appeared a harsh decision as the defender appeared to get a toe on the ball first.
Like the scoreless draw with Wales here in March, Ireland finished the game with a man advantage but lacked the tools to create problems for their visitors and Stojkovic didn't have an awful lot to do.
Meyler and James McClean had shots from distance over the top and Christie put a shot wide from just inside, but nothing that forced the Partizan Belgrade stopper into serious action.
Daryl Murphy, who had been introduced for Hoolahan just after the hour, was Ireland's most potent attacking option and he should have had a penalty when dragged back by Ivanovic.
The referee, having given Ireland a rub of the green with the sending-off, appeared in no mood to serve up a repeat however, despite the obviousness of the foul.
Murphy could have snatched an equaliser, however, when he picked up Long's flick-on four minutes from time. His first effort was blocked by Ivanovic and he put the rebound too close to the keeper.
Ireland huffed an puffed in the final minutes, and Conor Hourihane was introduced for his shooting ability from distance, but his best efforts, like the rest, were off target.
News that Wales had scored twice late on against Moldova was a further blow as it lifts Chris Coleman's side to second and, in all likelihood, Ireland will have to win in Cardiff on the final day next month to stand a chance of reaching the World Cup in Russia.
Republic of Ireland: Darren Randolph; Cyrus Christie, Shane Duffy, Ciaran Clark, Stephen Ward (Callum O'Dowda 72); David Meyler (Conor Hourihane 79), Wes Hoolahan (Daryl Murphy 62), James McClean, Robbie Brady; Jon Walters, Shane Long.
Booked: James McClean (74).
Subs not used: Keiren Westwood (gk), Rob Elliot (gk), John O'Shea, Richard Keogh, Kevin Long, Harry Arter, Glenn Whelan, Jonny Hayes, Daryl Horgan.
Serbia: Vladimir Stojkovic; Branislav Ivanovic, Nikola Maksimovic, Jagos Vukovic; Antonio Rukavina, Nemanja Matic, Luka Milivojevic, Aleksandar Kolarov; Dusan Tadic (Nemanja Gudelj 81), Filip Kostic (Stefan Mitrovic 72), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Aleksandar Prijovic 79).
Subs not used: Aleksandar Jovanovic (gk), Predrag Rajkovic (gk), Ivan Obradovic, Matija Nastasic, Zoran Tosic, Mijat Gacinovic, Uros Spajic, Neemanja Radoja, Adem Ljajic.
Booked: Antonio Rukavina (51).
Sent off: Nikola Maksimovic (68).
Referee: Cunyet Cekir.
Attendance: 51,000 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Filip Kostic (Serbia).