Serbia have qualified for the 2022 World Cup after Aleksandar Mitrovic comes off the bench to score a dramatic injury-time winner to stun complacent Portugal.
Renato Sanches’ second minute goal was cancelled out by a Dusan Tadic equaliser from outside the box, greatly helped by a Rui Patricio error, in the first half.
And with just seconds left of the match, Serbia completed the turnaround through a dramatic last-gasp winner from Mitrovic, whose header at the back post silenced a shell-shocked crowd inside the Estadio da Luz.
The result means Serbia leapfrog Portugal to finish top of Group A on 20 points. Portugal stay on 17 points and have to settle for a place in the playoffs.
The hosts took an early lead in the second minute after Nemanja Gudelj was caught on the ball just outside his own box by Bernardo Silva. The Manchester City forward teed up Sanches who ran through an empty gap in the Serbia backline and fired into the bottom corner to get Portugal off to the perfect start.
Portugal's midfielder Renato Sanches celebrates after scoring a goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification group A football match between Portugal and Serbia at the Luz stadium in Lisbon, Portugal, on November 14, 2021.
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The first half quickly grew in intensity and Dusan Vlahovic, starting ahead of in-form Mitrovic, struck the inside of the post before firing a rebound over the bar.
Serbia were comfortably winning the possession battle and they grabbed a deserved equaliser in the 33rd minute thanks to Patricio producing a blunder of his own.
Tadic’s shot from the edge of the box looked as if it was going to be caught by the Roma goalkeeper, but instead it squirmed through his hands and crept over the line to give the visitors a slight hope that they might go on and top the group.
Dusan Tadic of Serbia celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Portugal and Serbia at Estadio Jose Alvalade on November 14, 2021 in Lisbon, Lisboa. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)
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Sanches almost found a game-leading goal for Portugal in the 56th minute when he was sent clear through following a swift counter-attack, but he could not cleanly dink the ball over goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic.
In a scrappy second half, substitute Mitrovic glanced a near-post header wide in the 82nd minute, but he eventually got his goal in the final seconds. He snuck in at the far post to nod in Tadic’s lethal cross, sparking wild celebrations from the Serbia contingent.
Aleksandar Mitrovic of Serbia celebrates scoring Serbia second and wining goal during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Portugal and Serbia at Estadio Jose Alvalade on November 14, 2021 in Lisbon, Lisboa. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty)
Image credit: Getty Images
TALKING POINT – REDEMPTION FOR SERBIA
It’s been quite the year for Serbia. It was only a year ago Serbia suffered the heartbreak of losing to Scotland on penalties which saw them miss out on the European Championships.
Just 12 months later and Serbia finish Group A unbeaten and produce a dramatic win against the toughest opponent in the group in their backyard.
It looked as if Portugal would successfully clinch the point they needed, but ultimately Portugal paid the price for their complacency, not just in this game but also in their goalless draw against Republic of Ireland last Thursday.
Tonight will be remembered as one of the greatest in Serbia’s footballing history.
MAN OF THE MATCH – ALEKSANDAR MITROVIC
It is also redemption for Mitrovic who missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out against Scotland last year. He has capped off a sensational World Cup qualifying campaign with his eighth goal in the most dramatic of circumstances and can now soak up the adulation from the Serbia fans knowing he will be in Qatar this time next year.
Portugal: Patricio (4), Cancelo (5), Fonte (5), Dias (6), Mendes (6), Danilo (6), Moutinho (5), Sanches (7), Silva (6), Jota (5), Ronaldo (5)
Subs: Palhinha (6), Fernandes (5), Felix (N/A), Neves (N/A), Silva (N/A)
2' - GOAL! PORTUGAL TAKE THE LEAD! Sanches puts in the net with the third goal for his country! It's absolutely atrocious defending from Serbia. Gudelj is caught napping on the ball. He is dispossessed by Silva on the edge of the area and Sanches simply runs through the open gap and slots home! It goes to a VAR check but the goal stands!
34' - GOAL! SERBIA HAVE EQUALISED! Tadic levels up for Serbia! It's a big blunder from Rui Patricio! Tadic's left-footed shot from just outside the box looks like it is going to be caught by the Roma goalkeeper, only for it to squirm out of his hands and creeps over the line! It's a vital goal for Serbia! Game on!
52' - CHANCE! Portugal counter-attack and Sanches closes in on goal... he dinks Rajkovic before Lukic's fires his clearance off the goalkeeper and out behind for a corner! That could have gone anywhere! The following corner comes to nothing.
90' - GOAL! SERBIA HAVE DONE IT!!! MITROVIC STRIKES LATE FOR SERBIA! At the far post from a free-kick, Tadic swings a cross into the far post... Mitrovic sneaks in at the back post and nods the ball into the top corner!