Xherdan Shaqiri’s 90th-minute goal gave Switzerland a vital 2-1 victory over Serbia in a thrilling World Cup Group E encounter in Kaliningrad.
The Stoke midfielder broke clear over halfway and went through on goal with Serbia at the other end of the pitch, slotting brilliantly under Vladimir Stojkovic after the Swiss had earlier been 1-0 down.
Serbia were fastest out of the traps and went ahead through Aleksandar Mitrovic’s header (5), but could have been further ahead before the break as Dusan Tadic and Dusko Tosic went close.
Serbia: Stojkovic (5); Ivanovic (5), Milenkovic (6), Tosic (5), Kolarov (6); Matic (6), Milivojevic (6); Tadic (8), Milinkovic-Savic (7), Kostic (6); Mitrovic (8)
Subs: Ljajic (5), Radonjic (NA)
Switzerland: Sommer (6); Lichtsteiner (5), Schar (5), Akanji (5), Rodriguez (6); Behrami (7), Xhaka (6); Shaqiri (8), Dzemaili (7), Zuber (7); Seferovic (5)
Subs: Gavranovic (7), Embolo (6), Drmic (NA)
Man of the match: Xherdan Shaqiri
Switzerland equalised after the break (52) as Granit Xhaka ran onto a loose ball to produce a superb 25-yard drive into the far corner, before Shaqiri’s winner at the death.
Mitrovic’s header forced a fine save from Yann Sommer early on from Tadic’s cross from the right, but that exact combination was successful seconds later as the Newcastle striker got the better of his marker Fabian Schar to nod home from six yards.
Serbia were more energetic in the first half but did concede chances; Haris Seferovic should have scored after Blerim Dzemaili’s superb threaded ball, but Stojkovic tipped the poked effort wide from eight yards.
Serbia should have gone into half-time 2-0 up as Tosic mistimed his jump, unmarked in the six-yard box from a Tadic corner, before Tadic himself saw a fine long-range effort fly inches over.
There was just one change for Serbia as Ljajic made way for Kostic on the left of the three behind Mitrovic. Switzerland were unchanged following their 1-1 draw with Brazil.
Switzerland equalised against the run of play seven minutes after the break as Xhaka’s long-range effort flew past the unsighted Stojkovic, and Shaqiri then hit the post with a superb fine shot from an acute angle on the edge of the box.
Mitrovic was furious he did not receive a penalty as both Stephan Lichtsteiner and Schar hauled him down in the box, with no VAR used and German referee Felix Byrch unmoved.
And Switzerland stole it as the game became stretched late on, with Tosic inexplicably looking to play offside with Shaqiri just inside his own half from Mario Gavranovic’s through ball.
Shaqiri had 60 yards to bear down on goal, but he produced a lovely finish under Stojkovic to round off one of the best games of the tournament so far.
Man of the match – Xherdan Shaqiri
The Stoke man struggled to get into the game in the first half as Serbia dominated, but his match-winning knack came through in the second as Switzerland produced an unlikely turnaround.
Shortly after Xhaka’s equaliser, Shaqiri hit the post with an effort that would have been a contender for goal of the tournament, and after racing through on goal from halfway, he showed the full package to win it; strength, pace and the finish.
Plenty of top clubs will be after Shaqiri later this summer, but for now until the plane home, he is Switzerland’s maestro.
Serbia’s Mladen Krstajic: “We were equal to them, maybe they had more possession, but at 1-1 we tried to go on the attack. We substituted a defensive midfielder for an attacking midfielder but unfortunately we conceded in the 90th minute on the break. This is football. We did not convert some of our chances. I believe the lads have given their all.”
Switzerland’s Vladimir Petkovic: “We had a roller-coaster ride. They went 1-0 up and we found our balance in the second half.”
- Switzerland’s 2-1 victory over Serbia is the first game at the 2018 World Cup to see a side win from a losing position.
- As an independent nation, Serbia have lost each of the six World Cup matches in which they have conceded.
- Switzerland have lost just one of their last 24 matches (W17 D6), a 2-0 defeat to Portugal in a World Cup qualifier in October 2017.
- Aleksandar Mitrovic has been directly involved in 15 goals in his last 15 starts for Serbia (13 goals, 2 assists).
Serbia now face Brazil in their final Group E game on Wednesday at 7pm, with Switzerland playing Costa Rica at the same time.