Portugal 1-2 Serbia: Cristiano Ronaldo and company will have to qualify for the World Cup via PLAY-OFFS after Aleksandar Mitrovic scores late winner to send visitors to Qatar
- Serbia qualified for the 2022 World Cup at Portugal’s expense with a 2-1 win
- Cristiano Ronaldo’s team now has to qualify for the play-offs next year
- Bruno Fernandes was eliminated by his country before the crucial qualifier in Lisbon
- His replacement, Renato Sanches, scored within the first two minutes of starting
- Serbia’s Dusan Tadic’s shot was introduced by Rui Patricio to level the score.
- Aleksandar Mitrovic then appeared in injury time to headline a dramatic winner
Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal will have to qualify for the 2022 World Cup through the play-offs after they lost their life-and-death qualifying match to Serbia 2-1 late and dramatically.
The winners of Euro 2016 knew that one point would send them to the World Cup final and they made a perfect start when Renato Sanches, brought in by the fallen Bruno Fernandes, scored after just two minutes.
But a stubborn Serb bounced back in the first half with Dusan Tadic tied thanks to a big mistake by Rui Patricio, which made the Lisbon crowd nervous. Then Fulham-shaped forward Aleksandar Mitrovic came off the bench to lead the winner in injury time.
Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the winning goal to send Serbia to the World Cup at the expense of Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal must qualify for the World Cup through the play-offs
Ronaldo and company now have to wait to seal their place in Qatar, with the qualifiers next year to determine whether the 36-year-old Manchester United striker will participate in the winter World Cup.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos eliminated Manchester United’s Fernandes from his starting team and his decision was justified in 120 seconds when the replacement of midfielder Sanches put the home team ahead.
Nemanja Gudelj was dispossessed too quickly on the edge of his own box by Bernardo Silva, with Lille’s Sanches picking up a loose ball to finish off and drive the Lisbon crowd crazy.
Renato Sanches entered due to the fall of Bruno Fernandes and scored in two minutes
But Serbia improved after the initial setback with Nikola Milenkovic seeing a goal disallowed for a foul and Dusan Vlahovic hitting the wood in the first 15 minutes.
And his improvement was finally rewarded when Ajax forward Tadic picked up the ball on the edge of the area that Portugal goalkeeper Patricio should have held, but the former Wolves striker could only get the ball into his own net.
It could have improved for Serbia, but Filip Kostic could only hit the side net while Vlahovic had a goal scored offside. Meanwhile, Portuguese midfielder Danilo Pereira headed from inside the six-yard box as the hosts tried to regain the lead.
Dusan Tadic then tied for Serbia just before half-time to make the Lisbon crowd nervous
Rui Patricio was to blame for Serbia’s goal to awkwardly a harmless shot from Tadic
Serbia brought in the dangerous Mitrovic at halftime to add more attacking power, but the second half was cautious and neither team gave too much.
Visiting striker Vlahovic, who has started this season in good shape for Italian Fiorentina, had a shot from the edge of the box with 15 minutes remaining, but Danilo stood his ground to put up a vital block.
In the final ten minutes, Mitrovic almost pounced on a wonderful cross from the left, but was only able to fire his free header outside the goal in another harrowing opportunity for the Serbs.
Dusan Vlahovic was a dangerous customer all night for Portugal and came close to scoring
But Mitrovic made it all worth it as the clock struck 90 as he headed home with a cross from the right that crawled under Patricio at his first post. The Fulham man celebrated by taking off his shirt and partying with a huge crowd from Serbia.
Ronaldo’s frustrations were summed up with a bold spin and volley from 30 yards at the last chance of the game – there’s a strong chance the iconic forward will not play in Qatar next year.
Serbia, meanwhile, may start planning for Qatar, and the dangerous duo of Mitrovic and Vlahovic make them a dangerous team.