Busy international night: Mitrovic on verge of World Cup finals but Rafa sweating on new injury worry
Rafa Benitez had a number of players out on international duty this past week and Tuesday saw mixed fortunes for those involved.
The big talking point was Republic of Ireland v Serbia – Ciaran Clark v Aleksandar Mitrovic.
This ended in a small personal victory for Clark as he prevented his teammate from adding to his six goals in six qualifying games but it was Serbia who took all three points.
Kolarov scored the only goal of the match in the 55th minute but Maksimovic then was red carded in the 68th minute, nevertheless Serbia saw out the rest of the game for a crucial 1-0 win. Mitro was subbed with 10 minutes to go whilst Ciaran Clark played the full 90 minutes, Rob Elliot an unused sub.
The result means that with two games to go Serbia are four points clear at the top and almost certain to be the automatic qualifiers. Wales won 2-0 in Moldova and move a point ahead of Ireland into second place and now favourites for the play-off spot.
On the 6 October both countries have very winnable games against Georgia and Moldova respectively, with a winner takes all fixture on 9 October when Wales host Republic of Ireland.
Chancel Mbemba captained DR Congo and gave them a ninth minute lead against Tunisia, the Newcastle defender’s team going two up just after half-time to give them hope of qualifying.
However, Mbemba was forced off on 59 minutes with an unspecified injury, which isn’t great news for Rafa Benitez or DR Congo, as they then suffered a collapse and Tunisia grabbed two late goals to equalise and grab a draw. Tunisia now three points ahead with two games to go.
Lejeune and Yedlin are possible returners on Sunday at Swansea but Rafa could do without another injury worry, especially as Chancel Mbemba has put in some good shifts in various positions already this season.
Earlier on Tuesday Christian Atsu and Ghana beat Congo 5-1 but with only one win from four qualifying games, they look to have an impossible task four points behind leaders Egypt with two games remaining.
A welcome start for Freddie Woodman for England Under 21s saw the Newcastle keeper make it three hours without conceding at this level. Woodman played in a 1-0 win over Kazakhstan last year and on Tuesday night kept another clean sheet as the Young Lions beat Latvia 3-0 (at Bournemouth) in an Under 21 European Championships qualifier.
After a goal and an assist when Spain Under 21s beat Italy 3-0, this time Mikel Merino had to be content with playing the full 90 minutes and contributing to a 1-0 win in Estonia in their Under 21s European Championships qualifier.
If you would like to feature on The Mag, submit your article to [email protected]