Match Report: Serbia vs Georgia: 2018 World Cup Qualifying Group D Matchday Ten 10th October 2017
A late strike from substitute Aleksandar Prijovic was just about enough to give Serbia automatic qualification to next summer’s Russian World Cup and victory over Georgia on a nervy night in Belgrade.
The hosts entered the tie-on top of Group D and needing a win to guarantee top spot and a place in Russia, with a draw and a Welsh win over the Republic of Ireland, they could have had to settle for a play-off place.
However, instead, the three points was enough to keep them on top following an Irish triumph in Wales, but the Serbs did it the hard way against a Georgia side that proved tough to break down.
The Game’s decisive and definitive moment came midway through the second period as Aleksandar Mitrovic’s cross found Prijovic to raise the roof on The Red Star Stadium.
From the start Serbia boss, Slavoljub Muslin, had made four changes to the side that were defeated 3-2 in Austria last week.
Matija Nastasic and Stefan Mitrovic made way in defence for Nikola Maksimovic and Dusko Tosic, in the centre of the park Nemanja Gudelj came in for Crystal Palace’s Luka Milivojevic and Adem Ljajic replaced Mijat Gacinovic in attack for the hosts.
Meanwhile, for Kakhaber Tskhadadze’s visitors, four changes were made from the home defeat to Wales on Friday evening.
Giorgi Makaridze, David Khocholava, Giorgi Aburjania and Jambul Jighauri came in for George Loria, Saba Kverkvelia, Nika Kvekveskiri and Giorge Merebashvilli.
On paper, the Serbians had the significant upper hand with the likes of Chelsea man and skipper Branislav Ivanovic, Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic, Southampton’s Dusan Tadic and Newcastle United’s Aleksandar Mitrovic all starting.
But, the football was not played on paper and the away nation proved to be a surprise package, pushing Serbia all the way.
Jambul Jighauri would test Vladimir Stojkovic in the Serbian goal early on with a long-range effort, but there was little action to speak of in a cagey first period on a chilly Belgrade evening.
Dusan Tadic, the perpetrator of most attacks from the home nation, was finding it tough against a Georgian defensive wall, hence why it was a slice of fortunate that lead to the Serbian second-half winner.
As Branislav Ivanovic broke away on the counter-attack with his Side in desperate need of a winner, the sliding tackle of Georgia’s skipper Jaba Kankava played in Mitrovic on the right side.
The Newcastle United man needed no second invitation to roll a superb ball across the face of the area to find Prijovic, who’s sliding effort crept into the far corner for a historic moment.
The PAOK man’s goal would be enough for Serbia to hold off their opposition and set up wild celebrations at the full-time whistle, as they confirmed a place at a second World Cup as an independent Nation.
Meanwhile, it was always going to be a tall order in such a tough Group for Georgia to contend in and they finish another disappointing Qualifying campaign in fifth place with defeat in Belgrade.
But, on the flip side, celebrations continued all night long in the Serbian capital as overwhelming joy and jubilation took over, the fans didn’t care about the wobbly manner in which their nation finished, only the importance of a place at Russia 2018.
Man of the Match: Aleksandar Mitrovic