Late Shaqiri strike gives Switzerland victory over Serbia
23 Jun 2018, 00:25 ( 3 Months ago)
A late Xherdan Shaqiri goal earned Switzerland a 2-1 win over Serbia on Friday and set up a tantalizing final round of matches in Group E of the World Cup in Russia.
Aleksandar Mitrovic gave Serbia the lead with an early header before Switzerland drew level with a Granit Xhaka wonder goal just after halftime.
A tense arm-wrestle ensued before Shaqiri broke the deadlock in the 90th minute by sliding the ball between the legs of goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic.
The result means both teams still have a chance of progressing to the knockout stage. Their fate will depend on the outcome of their final group matches next week, with Serbia meeting Brazil and Switzerland taking on the already eliminated Costa Rica.
Serbia attacked from the outset and went ahead after just five minutes at Kaliningrad Stadium. Nemanja Matic dispossessed Steven Zuber and the ball fell for Dusan Tadic, who wrong-footed Ricardo Rodriguez before whipping an inviting cross to the far post, which Mitrovic met with a bullet header.
Serbia began with a 4-2-3-1 formation and the attacking midfield trident of Filip Kostic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Dusan Tadic caused early problems for the Swiss.
As did center-forward Mitrovic, who also went close with two other headers in the opening 10 minutes.
After being forced onto the back foot early, Switzerland slowly began enjoying more possession with Xhaka involved in most of their buildup play.
It was Xhaka who started the move that led to Switzerland's best scoring chance of the first half. The Arsenal playmaker's perfectly weighted pass released Zuber, who in turn laid the ball off to Blerim Dzemaili. The Bologna forward didn't quite hit his shot cleanly and Stojkovic was able to turn the ball behind for a corner.
Swiss coach Vladimir Petkovic replaced Haris Seferovic with Mario Gavranovic after the interval in a bid to inject pace into his team. It paid dividends, with the Dinamo Zagreb forward growing in stature as the second half progressed.
Serbia began the second half as they started the first, with Mitrovic continuing to pose an aerial threat. He again rose highest after a Tadic corner but his header flew just over the bar.
The close call jolted Switzerland into action and they finally capitalized in the 52nd minute. Shaqiri had a shot blocked by Aleksandar Kolorov but the rebound fell for Xhaka, whose fizzing 25-yard drive left Stojkovic with no chance.
Switzerland were suddenly oozing confidence. Shaqiri again found space on the left and unleashed a curling effort that grazed the outside of the left post.
There were few clear-cut chances in the closing stages as both defences sat deep. But that left either side vulnerable to a counterattack and that is exactly how Switzerland's winner came. Gavranovic's superb through ball allowed Shaqiri to burst into the box and the Stoke midfielder cooly beat Stojkovic in a one-on-one to hand Switzerland their first win of the tournament.