On Sunday, October 14th, Serbia faced off against Romania in the Arena Națională. A UEFA Nations League match, it was Matchday 4 in League C, Group 4 for each of the sides. Serbia went into the match on top of the table with 2W-1D-0L (7 points), 5 goals scored and 2 goals conceded; Romania were second in the group with 1W-2D-0L (5 points), 4 goals scored and 3 goals conceded. A first versus second-place match, one would expect the match to be close and that is exactly what it was. After the full 90’+4′, the final score was 0-0.
Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic once again started from the bench as Eintracht Frankfurt’s Mijat Gacinovic, Ajax’s Dusan Tadic, and Marseille’s Nemanja Radonjic started in the attacking three in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
We’ll kick off at the 20′ in this match where Serbia had found themselves on a breakaway. #9 Aleksandar Mitrovic was sent through on goal from a header from #4 Nikola Milenkovic (off a goal kick from Romania). The ball bounced over everyone, Mitrovic latched on to it but took the ball out to far to the right and sent a shot wide of the left post.
In the 27′, Romania’s #18 Razvan Marin of Standard Liege had a free kick saved from a long way out – his low power drive was likely missing the net, but it was a good opportunity considering it got to Serbia’s goal.
In the 30′, Mitrovic was back in the center of attention as he got a head onto a well-worked play and eventual cross from Red Star Belgrade left-back #3, Milan Rodic. He rose high, and it was a thumping header towards the bottom right corner, but goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu parried the ball away.
In the 43′, a penalty was given to Serbia. Romanian defender #4, Gabriel Tamas, was given a straight red card for supposedly kicking Gacinovic (off a poor first touch) in the head in the 18-yard box. Even if he didn’t hit him, the challenge was still reckless. Tadic cockily stepped up to take and shot the ball way wide (to the left) and high over the net. A huge missed opportunity.
Finally, Lazio’s Milinkovic-Savic entered the pitch in the 63′, replacing Gacinovic. He was put into the middle of the three attacking midfielders, pushing Tadic out to the right flank. He was involved right away, sending a nicely lofted ball into Mitrovic, but his header was put over the bar.
Looking at the Lazio midfielder’s stats, he had a 72% pass success percentage (19 of 36), 1 key pass, and 1 aerial battle won. Not the greatest performance from a top class player, but maybe just considering the form he is in right now.
Serbia and Romania remain to sit in first and second place after the match.