Lazovic clinches Serbia success
Manager Nigel Worthington had hoped for a consolation victory after their previous home defeat by Slovakia effectively ended their hopes of qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™finals. Instead they again lacked a cutting edge and had nothing to show for some bright, energetic football.
Worthington left record scorer David Healy on the bench but brought him on in the second half with both Kyle Lafferty and Warren Feeney unable to breach the Serbia defence. However, Healy was out of luck in his bid to end a run of six matches without a goal for the province.
There would have been interest in the match from Old Trafford as well with Nemanja Vidic having a 45-minute run-out as Serbia captain following a three-week absence from the Manchester United side because of a calf injury. Vidic's team-mate Jonny Evans also played in the first half before limping off with a knock.
Serbia showed their intentions as early as the ninth minute. Zdravko Kuzmanovic tested Maik Taylor in the ninth minute, the Birmingham goalkeeper doing well to tip his effort over the bar.
Northern Ireland, however, almost took the lead five minutes later when Niall McGinn cut inside and tried his luck on goal. The Celtic midfielder's effort was struck firm and true but visiting keeper Bojan Isailovic was equal to it.
Serbia were looking dangerous on the counter attack and Manchester United winger Zoran Tosic stung Taylor's fingers in the 27th minute. Then Chris Baird escaped his marker in the 35th minute but sent his header the wrong side of the post.
Northern Ireland were playing some neat football and McGinn got behind the Serbia defence in the 42nd minute. The pacy winger fired in a shot from an acute angle that unnerved defender Aleksander Lukovic, whose mistimed clearance went out for a corner.
Serbia got the all-important goal in the 57th minute with a well-crafted effort from Lazovic. He beat Taylor from close range after a clever dummy from Gojko Kacar set him up following Tosic's cross.
The province came close to equalising six minutes later only for Isailovic to make a stunning block to keep out Stephen Craigan's header. Healy was then introduced in the 64th minute, replacing Feeney with Northern Ireland chasing the game.
And McCann released Healy four minutes later but he scuffed his effort wide of the post. With Northern Ireland anxious to get back in the game, Lazovic should have extended Serbia's lead in the 76th minute.
He showed good skill to carve out an opening in the penalty area but hoisted his shot over the top. Northern Ireland, though, almost equalised in the 82nd minute but McCann's free-kick went marginally over the bar.
Then Healy made space outside the area only to send his effort across the face of the goal as Serbia held out for the win.