A late own goal gave the Republic of Ireland their best result under Stephen Kenny as they drew with Serbia in a World Cup qualifier in Dublin.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s clever 20th-minute header from a Dusan Tadic corner put the Serbs ahead.
The Republic were then indebted to teenager Gavin Bazunu, who made 10 saves to keep the visitors at bay.
They snatched a point when Milinkovic-Savic’s 86th-minute clearance went in off Nikola Milenkovic.
The hosts then pressed for a late winner – in front of a raucous crowd – but Serbia almost got it when Nemanja Gudelj’s long-range free-kick hit the bar.
The Republic’s run of competitive games without a victory under Kenny extended to 12 – but this felt like a success with the late drama and spirited comeback.
Serbia now trail Portugal by two points at the top of Group A in the battle for a World Cup spot, while Kenny’s side are second bottom with just two points.
It is more than two years and 16 matches since the Republic won a competitive game, following a June 2019 victory over Gibraltar.
Youngsters impress in another late show
Football in the Republic of Ireland is torn at the moment.
There are those who think Kenny needs time as he tries to blood youngsters and get the team playing a passing game.
Bazunu, the Manchester City keeper on loan at Portsmouth, and Norwich centre-back Andrew Omobamidele – who were both excellent – are 19, and Adam Idah, who worked hard but was isolated up front, is 20.
But the other argument is they have only beaten Andorra – in a friendly – in 16 games over 18 months.
For all the under-pressure Kenny may try to change the Republic’s style, one thing will never change – their love of late goals from crosses.
Each of their last five home goals in competitive matches have come in the 85th minute or later – including Shane Duffy’s leveller last time out against Azerbaijan.
They were fortunate Milinkovic-Savic kicked the ball against his own team-mate for the equaliser, but the goal had been coming as the Republic – backed by their vociferous fans – put Serbia under a lot of late pressure.
That was a big positive as was their outstanding defence and goalkeeper.
Yet they only had two shots on target all game, a Jeff Hendrick free-kick and a long-range drive from Omobamidele, and could have been thrashed if not for Bazunu’s heroics.
Will this result change minds in the pro and anti-Kenny camps? Probably not.
R. of Ireland
- 18McGrathSubstituted forHorganat 66′minutes
- 6CullenSubstituted forMolumbyat 66′minutesBooked at 88mins
- 13HendrickSubstituted forHourihaneat 78′minutes
- 7BrowneBooked at 49minsSubstituted forRobinsonat 58′minutes
- 9IdahBooked at 31minsSubstituted forCollinsat 78′minutes
- 21DjuricicBooked at 25minsSubstituted forRadonjicat 71′minutesBooked at 85mins
- 17KosticSubstituted forLazovicat 87′minutes
- 10TadicSubstituted forMaksimovicat 83′minutes
- 18VlahovicSubstituted forJovicat 70′minutes
- José María Sánchez Martínez
Match ends, Republic of Ireland 1, Serbia 1.
Second Half ends, Republic of Ireland 1, Serbia 1.
Predrag Rajkovic (Serbia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Shane Duffy (Republic of Ireland).
Corner, Republic of Ireland. Conceded by Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
Attempt blocked. John Egan (Republic of Ireland) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Conor Hourihane with a cross.
Corner, Republic of Ireland. Conceded by Predrag Rajkovic.
Attempt saved. Andrew Omobamidele (Republic of Ireland) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Jayson Molumby.
Strahinja Pavlovic (Serbia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by John Egan (Republic of Ireland).
Corner, Republic of Ireland. Conceded by Darko Lazovic.
Jayson Molumby (Republic of Ireland) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Nemanja Gudelj (Serbia) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Jayson Molumby (Republic of Ireland).
Substitution, Serbia. Darko Lazovic replaces Filip Kostic.
Own Goal by Nikola Milenkovic, Serbia. Republic of Ireland 1, Serbia 1.
Attempt missed. John Egan (Republic of Ireland) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Callum Robinson with a cross.
Nemanja Radonjic (Serbia) is shown the yellow card.
Offside, Serbia. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic tries a through ball, but Nemanja Radonjic is caught offside.
Attempt saved. Filip Kostic (Serbia) left footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Nemanja Radonjic.
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