Serbia 2-2 Republic of Ireland: Late Daryl Murphy header snatches draw for Ireland
By Charlotte Marsh
Last Updated: 06/09/16 7:24am
Daryl Murphy's late header snatched a point for Republic of Ireland as they drew 2-2 with Serbia in their opening 2018 World Cup Qualifier on Monday.
Jeff Hendrick gave the visitors a perfect start when he struck home in the third minute for his first international goal, although Serbia capitalised on their pressure when Filip Kostic equalised an hour later.
Serbia went ahead seven minutes later as Jon Walters fouled Kostic inside the box with Dusan Tadic converting the spot kick, before Murphy's header ten minutes from time sealed a point for Martin O'Neill's men.
The Republic of Ireland are next in action on October 6 when they host Georgia in their second World Cup Qualifier live on Sky Sports.
The Republic of Ireland got off to a great start as Hendrick struck early on, with a Robbie Brady free kick flicked into his path by Shane Long and the Burnley midfielder fired home from the top of the box with the ball taking a nick off Branislav Ivanovic on its way through.
But it was Serbia who had the better chances of the half, with Seamus Coleman forced into some on-the-line defending in the 23rd minute as a Tadic free-kick bounced off a number of heads inside a packed box and nearly scrambled past the Everton defender, but he booted the ball to safety.
Ten minutes later, it was another packed Ireland box that saw Serbia go close as Nemanja Gudelj crossed in from the left, but Aleksandar Mitrovic and Matija Nastasic found themselves tangled together with Hendrick in the middle and the midfielder just did enough to get the ball to trickle past the post.
Mitrovic was involved again on the stroke of half-time as Tadic - who controlled Serbia's attacking play throughout the game - found Antonio Rukavina on the right of the box. His cross was palmed away by Darren Randolph and nearly fell to Mitrovic, but John O'Shea and Coleman managed to scramble it away before reaching the forward.
Serbia started the second half as they finished the first, and went close in the 58th minute as Ivanovic fired a cross into the box for Mitrovic, who managed to poke the ball into the path of Tadic. The Southampton man took aim despite the Ireland defence closing in, but his effort just curled wide of the top corner.
But once the goals started for the hosts, they came thick and fast with their equaliser coming four minutes later as Ivanovic found Tadic in the middle of the box and the Saints winger looped the ball over the head of O'Shea to find Kostic who tapped home.
The hosts went ahead not long after as Walters was deemed to have tripped Kostic in the corner of the box with the referee pointing to the spot. It was an easy conversion for Tadic, who slotted home down the middle to give the hosts the lead.
Serbia could have made it 3-1 with 16 minutes to play as Filip Mladenovic fired from the top of the box, with Randolph spilling the shot into the path of Pavlovic but he smacked the rebound onto the underside of the crossbar and it back out into the area.
The near-miss seemed to have spurred Ireland into life as they hunted for an equaliser and thought they had it when Walters headed home from a Hendrick cross but was flagged for offside, although the goal that counted came six minutes later.
It took Murphy four minutes after coming on as a substitute to get his first international goal and the leveller for the hosts, getting a strong header onto the end of a Brady corner and powering past goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic.
It was Serbia who twice came close to snatching the winner through captain Ivanovic, having his first chance cleared off the line by Coleman before an Aleksandar Katai cross just evaded him as the Republic of Ireland held out for a point.