Late own goal steers Serbia through
Dramatic goals late in normal and extra-time saw Serbia scrape through to the FIFA U-20 World Cup quarter-finals with a 2-1 win over Hungary.
Bence Mervo's second-half strike following a Hungarian breakaway saw the Magyars go ahead, and a splendid performance from goalkeeper Gyorgy Szekely looked to have put them through. But Ivan Saponjic struck right at the death to level the game, which was no more than Serbia deserved, and in the dying embers of extra-time the unfortunate Attila Talaber put through his own net to send Hungary home.
Right from the off Serbia looked to be the fresher of the pair, having had an extra day's rest, though chances were in short supply during the initial passages of play. The first opening came after a good interchange between Stanisa Mandic and Nemanja Maksimovic saw the latter's stooping header flash wide, and it was a taste of things to come.
Szekely had needed to be on his toes throughout, and he required every bit of his 6ft frame as he superbly clawed away Sasa Zdeljar's toe-poked effort, which looked bound for the top corner. He then was forced to twice deny Mandic as he proved the only reason the sides couldn't be separated at the break.
Just over ten minutes after the restart the breakthrough was made, and it came against the run of play. Initially, superb work down the left flank by Nemanja Antonov saw him make space to cut the ball back to Filip Jankovic, but he badly mis-hit his shot from 12 yards. A lightning-quick breakaway punished them, ending with Zsolt Kalmar cutting the ball back for the lethal Mervo to put Hungary ahead.
The flow of the game didn't change though, with the Magyars trying to hold firm under some unrelenting pressure from their European counterparts. Zsoter spurned a chance to double their lead and Mandic continued his personal battle with Szekely as he forced the keeper into another save, this time low to his right. The balls into the box continued to rain down and finally, with seconds remaining, Serbia found a breakthrough.
A corner swung into the left dropped perfectly on to the head of Saponjic, who had found a pocket of space, and the ball nestled into the top corner. But that joy was tempered somewhat when team-mate Milan Galic saw red for his second booking of the night before the game went into extra time.
With Serbia a man down the game was a much more even affair and, as legs tired, there was just one, vital moment of goalmouth action. Saponjic proved to be key again, as his drilled cross from the right wickedly flicked off the boot of Talaber, leaving Szekely stranded and looping in into the far corner.
Serbia now head to Auckland's North Harbour Stadium, where they will take on the winners of Colombia-USA in the last eight.