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WORLD CUP 2018: Kolarov stunner clinches Serbia win over Costa Rica

Serbia have enjoyed a successful opening game at the World Cup, edging out a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in a tightly fought contest.

The opening Group E fixture game off to a slow start, with neither side willing to make risky moves as they familiarised themselves with each other. This one was always destined to be evenly matched, but by no means was this one easy to watch.

Serbia enjoyed more possession through the opening stages, but it was Costa Rica taking more shots from range. Well worked plays were few and far between during the first half as both sides struggled to bring in their midfielders for any serious threats.

The first half was highlighted by a spectacular overhead kick attempt by Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. He broke free of Costa Rica's defensive line but sent his shot straight into Keylor Navas as the offside flag went up on his shot.

It was going to take a lapse in concentration or something truly spectacular to separate the sides, and Serbia captain Aleksander Kolarov duly delivered as he curled in a bullet free kick to draw first blood.

Costa Rica looked slightly shell shocked after the goal as Serbia began to ramp up their pressure, giving away more fouls and frustrating their Central American opposition.

While not lacking in fouls or cards, the game got more physical after Serbia's goal, neither side willing to budge an inch on their opponent. The midfield battle raged on as a game of inches seemed increasingly impossible to find another goal.

The final few minutes became fairly scrappy as Mitrovic tried to earn himself a penalty to no avail. The VAR, while controversial, has been fairly efficient this tournament and no check was required, Mitrovic just losing his balance under pressure.

Ruiz and Bolaños combined to try and muster up a last gasp equaliser. Ruiz scuffed his shot inside the box while Bolaños' follow up was agonisingly high of the bar. The game ended on a dramatic note, two separate incidents were reviewed by VAR for red card offences. Serbia striker Prijovic was lucky to escape with just a yellow for slapping the face of Johnny Acosta.

A great first showing from Serbia, doing enough to look dangerous on their few attacks and smother Costa Rica to make it difficult to carve out any chances. Costa Rica will have to go back to the drawing board before they meet a highly touted Brazilian side next.

World Cup - Group E

Costa Rica - 0

Serbia - 1 (Kolarov 56')

Cosmos Arena, Samara - 41,402

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Chris Sermeno

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