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Serbia stun Portugal to earn WC berth

Serbia clinched an automatic berth in the 2022 World Cup finals after a 90th-minute header by halftime substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic gave them a comeback 2-1 win over Portugal in their Group A qualifier on Sunday.

Serbia stun Portugal to earn WC berth

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  16 Nov 2021 4:30 AM GMT

LISBON: Serbia clinched an automatic berth in the 2022 World Cup finals after a 90th-minute header by halftime substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic gave them a comeback 2-1 win over Portugal in their Group A qualifier on Sunday.

The result lifted Serbia into top spot on 20 points, three more than second-placed Portugal who only needed a draw to finish top on goal difference and qualify but will now head into the March playoffs.

Mitrovic beat home goalkeeper Rui Patricio with a downward header at the far post to spark wild celebrations on Serbia's bench after visiting captain Dusan Tadic had cancelled out an early Renato Sanches opener for Portugal.

Jubilant fans thronged central Belgrade, bringing traffic at the main Republic Square to a halt as they waved Serbian flags and hooted their car horns.

With Portugal's talismanic captain Cristiano Ronaldo stifled, they produced little up front and midfielder Joao Palhinha conceded the home side were below par.

The home side made a dream start in the second minute after Bernardo Silva robbed Nemanja Gudelj of the ball in the danger zone and fed Sanches, who drove it past goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic from 15 metres.

Unfazed by falling behind, the visitors came close when Dusan Vlahovic, preferred to Mitrovic as the lone striker, hit the post before Patricio gifted Serbia the equaliser.

A seemingly innocuous raid ended with Tadic taking a deflected shot from 20 metres which glided over Patricio's fingertips over the line.

More poor goalkeeping presented Portugal with a gilt-edged chance to retake the lead on the stroke of halftime as Rajkovic spilled the ball, but Joao Moutinho's shot was blocked on the line by Nikola Milenkovic.

Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic threw Mitrovic on for Gudelj and his gamble to deploy an extra forward for a defensive midfielder paid off as the Fulham striker, his country's all-time top scorer with 44 goals in 69 appearances, delivered. Agencies

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