Aleksandar Kolarov struck a superb free-kick as Serbia opened their World Cup campaign with a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica in Samara.
The former Manchester City defender fired home in trademark fashion as Serbia were rewarded for their dominance of the Group E fixture 11 minutes into the second half.
Costa Rica, who reached the quarter-finals in Brazil four years ago, paid the price for failing to make the most of some good chances in the first half.
Their frustrations spilled over in injury time as some members of their coaching staff became involved in heated exchanges with Serbia’s Nemanja Matic over a throw-in on the touchline.
Their early opportunities had come despite Serbia, being driven forward by the impressive Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, controlling for large spells.
Costa Rica’s best opening came after 12 minutes when Giancarlo Gonzalez was picked out unmarked at the far post by David Guzman following a short corner routine but he headed well over.
Marco Urena had earlier shot at Vladimir Stojkovic after being played through by Bryan Ruiz and he spurned another chance when he fired over from a Celso Borges ball.
Francisco Calvo also went close late in the first half but dragged his attempt wide.
Milinkovic-Savic underlined his ability when he connected with an overhead kick just before the break but it proved a comfortable save for Keylor Navas. The flag was also raised for offside but replays indicated there may have been a case for VAR to overrule had Milinkovic-Savic found the net.
Serbia took confidence from that and threatened much more after the interval.
Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrovic should have opened the scoring soon after the restart when he was played in by Milinkovic-Savic but he shot too close to Navas. Mitrovic had another opportunity moments later but failed to make clean contact with a header and the ball flew wide.
The opener came in the 56th minute after Mitrovic was fouled by Guzman around 30 yards from goal. Kolarov stepped up and curled a powerful effort over the wall and inside Navas’ left-hand post.
That took the sting from a lot of Costa Rica’s play and Arsenal’s Joel Campbell was sent on to enliven their attack. That did give the central Americans more of a focal point but Serbia held firm.
Substitute Filip Kostic could have doubled the lead after being picked out in front of goal by Dusan Tadic but he failed to control the strongly-hit pass and the chance was lost.
Mitrovic spurned another gilt-edged opportunity in the latter stages after being played in Milinkovic-Savic, losing his footing as he was challenged by Gonzalez. Appeals for a penalty were waved away. Kostic also blasted over late on.
VAR was called on twice in injury time to look at disciplinary matters. It was ruled no offence was committed after the touchline scuffle involving Matic over which team had the right to a throw-in.
Aleksandar Prijovic was then booked after catching Johnny Acosta in the face with his hand following another look at replays.
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