07.10.2016 at 17:45 RSC Waterford
Referee: Kirill Levnikov (RUS)
Kevin O Connor (1995)
Eoghan O Connell
THE Republic of Ireland U21 side went down to an unfortunate 3-1 loss to Serbia in an exciting encounter at the RSC this evening.
Noel King's side took the lead early in the second half through Everton striker Courtney Duffus but Serbia - World U20 Champions last year - produced a dramatic fight-back to claim the three points in what was the final game of Ireland's qualifying campaign.
Serbia threatened an opener in the eighth minute when Mijat Gačinović burst through the centre of the Irish defence but Kevin O'Connor got back to pressure the striker and the ball ran through to keeper Liam Bossin.
Despite sustained Irish pressure it was the Serbs who had the first shot on target but Andrija Živković's low strike from 25 yards in the 22nd minute was comfortably dealt with by Bossin.
Olamide Shodipo had Ireland's first major chance in the 26th minute after a clever pass by Alan Browne but unfortunately he flashed his effort across the face of the Serbian goal.
Two minutes later the dangerous winger Andrija Živković cut in from the right flank but his low strike from outside the box skidded narrowly wide.
Ireland had a big chance to break the deadlock in the 41st minute when Shodipo launched a break down the right flank and found the head of Alan Browne but the midfielder's header lacked the power to really test keeper Vanja Milinković-Savić.
Uroš Djurdjević produced a moment of magic just before half-time to flick the ball up over an Irish defender and volley goal-wards but Bossin reacted well to push the ball wide.
Two minutes into the second half Djurdjević curled narrowly wide in another dangerous attack by the visitors.
Ireland went ahead in the 49th minute when Duffus broke between the two Serbian centre-backs and produced a neat left footed finish past Milinković-Savić for an excellent goal.
Bossin showed his class with two decent saves. Živković fired towards the top corner with a well-hit free-kick in the 52nd minute but Bossin tipped over. One minute later Darko Lazić got his head to corner by Živković and once again the Irish keeper was in the right place to save.
Serbia had a chance to level in the 61st minute when Eoghan O'Connell was penalised for a challenge on Djurdjević and the referee awarded a spot-kick. Bossin showed his quality once more with a brilliant save from Serbian skipper Djurdjević.
It was disappointing for the Irish to then concede in the 64th minute. Živković produced a clever chip over the home defence and Nemanja Mihajlović raced through to fire past the advancing Irish keeper.
Three minutes later the visitors showed their class when they took the lead. Bossin made a brilliant reaction stop to keep out a Djurdjević header but Mijat Gačinović reacted first to turn the loose ball home.
Irish sub Sean Maguire had a half-chance in the 80th minute but pulled his effort across the face of the Serbian goal under pressure from a defender.
Unfortunately the Irish efforts to equalise saw them vulnerable on the counter-attack and in the 88th minute Sasa Lukić finished off a break led by Mihajlović to kill off the tie.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Liam Bossin, Eoghan O'Connell, Kevin O'Connor, Darragh Lenihan, Thomas Hoban, Alan Browne, Harry Charsley, Josh Cullen, Courtney Duffus (Seán Maguire 71), Jack Byrne (Jake Mulraney 71), Olamide Shodipo (Sean Kavanagh 79).
SERBIA: Vanja Milinković-Savić, Milan Gajić, Darko Lazić, Miloš Veljković, Uroš Djurdjević (Ognjen Ožegović 78), Mijat Gačinović, Aleksandar Čavrić (Nemanja Mihajlović 59), Marko Grujić, Andrija Živković, Saša Lukić (Vukašin Jovanović 89), Mihailo Ristić.