Serbia got their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign off to a positive start as substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic scored a second-half brace to give them a comeback 3-2 home win over Ireland in their opening Group A clash on Wednesday.
Alan Browne gave Ireland an 18th-minute lead out of the blue with a close-range header before Dusan Vlahovic levelled in the 40th with a first-time shot from inside the penalty area after Dusan Tadic nodded the ball into his stride.
Tadic pulled all the strings for Serbia in midfield but the hosts created little up front against a packed Irish defence in the first half, with Ireland’s stand-in goalkeeper Mark Travers denying Filip Djuricic on the stroke of halftime.
Ciaran Clark went close for Ireland with a header and Nikola Milenkovic fired wide at the other end in the second half before Mitrovic turned the tide with a delightful 69th-minute lob shortly after he came on for Djuricic.
Tadic, who fed Mitrovic with a crisp one-touch pass, racked up his third assist of the evening when he picked out Mitrovic with a sublime cross from the left and the Fulham striker beat Travers with a firm header.
Late substitute James Collins set up a tense finish when he pulled one back in the 86th minute as he bundled the ball in from two metres after a deflected shot fell kindly for him.
The outcome was a winning debut for Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic, who took over earlier this month after the Balkan nation failed to reach Euro 2020.