Aleksandar Kolarov scored a spectacular free-kick to give Serbia a deserved victory in their opening World Cup Group E match against Costa Rica.
Serbia captain Kolarov – the former Manchester City defender – scored from 25 yards when he curled the ball over the Costa Rica wall.
Kolarov’s effort had sufficient bend to find the top corner with Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas clutching at thin air as he desperately scrambled across goal.
Costa Rica only sporadically threatened the Serbia goal, with an early header over the crossbar from unmarked defender Giancarlo Gonzalez their best effort.
With games against Brazil and Switzerland to come, this was a key match for both nations to press their credentials to reach the knockout stages.
Mladen Krstajic’s Serbia side – the lowest ranked European nation at Russia 2018 – now appear the best placed of the two to progress after a dominant second-half display.
The margin of victory would have been greater had Navas not narrowed the angle to deny Newcastle striker Aleksandar Mitrovic after he had been sent clear by the impressive Sergej Milinkovic-Savic earlier in the game.
Serbia’s Nemanja Matic, meanwhile, was involved in an ugly confrontation with a member of the Costa Rica coaching staff in injury time as the Manchester United midfielder tried to retrieve the ball after it went out of play.
“My players had the right attitude and approach: unity. We had to be a compact unit in both defence and attack and that’s most important,” said Serbian coach Mladen Krstajic.
“What’s most important for me is that we played as a team and we were focused. We have to be planted firmly on the ground and continue as a team.
“I’m a person who likes to take responsibility and even if we had lost, I would’ve come here to analyse the match to the best of my abilities. I’m very happy and proud of my players for their team effort.”
Serbia’s last four World Cup wins have been by the score of 1-0. Before today’s match, Serbia’s last three World Cup wins (including when they played as Yugoslavia) were won by that scoreline: v Germany in 2010, v IR Iran and USA in 1998.