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Aleksandar Kolarov scores a stunner as Serbia defeat Costa Rica 1-0

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Goals from free-kicks have always been a treat to watch at the World Cups and Aleksandar Kolarov’s stunning shot in the 56th minute will be right at the top. For it ensured Serbia a comfortable 1-0 win over Costa Rica in the opening Group E fixture at the Samara Arena on Sunday.

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This tournament has already seen three goals scored from free-kicks in the opening round itself, the joint most number from the 2014 edition.

It was also for the first time that ‘Orlovi’ managed to win their first game of a World Cup since 1998, when they did it as Yugoslavia, beating Iran 1-0.

Technically superior to their South-American counterparts, Serbia had no difficulties in controlling the tempo of the game. Such was the domination of the European boys that forward Aleksandar Mitrovic had more touches (7) in the opposition box than the entire Costa Rican team, who had just five touches in 45 minutes.

The 2014 quarter-finalists were often caught in their own-half losing possession as Serbia dominated the midfield. Both Dusan Tadic and  Mitrovic combined well on the right creating chances once every two minutes.

But the best opportunities of the first-half fell to Milinkovic-Savic who came the closest twice – first in the 23rd minute when he shot straight at Keylor Navas and then with a overhead kick in the 42nd, that had little or no power. Both came albeit in an off-side position.

The only time ‘Los Ticos’ showed some composure came in the final few minutes of the opening half when Bryan Ruiz, by far Costa Rica’s most attacking player found some space and had more time on the ball.

Mitrovic came close once again as play resumed, chesting down a ball in the 49th minute before playing a neat one-two with Savic to get inside the box, with just Navas to beat. But the Real Madrid custodian palmed the ball away for a corner. But soon Serbia had gone ahead and Mitrovic as it had been all afternoon, had a hand.

David Guzman fouled the Newcastle United striker from behind and captain Kolarov stood up, bending the ball so deep that it went out of Navas’ reach.

Things however looked to change for better when Joel Campbell was introduced in the 67th minute for Costa Rica. The Arsenal man had in little time made more touches in the Serbian box than all of his teammates. He however failed to make any impact on the scoreline.

The defeat also meant Costa Rica after going undefeated in the entire 2014 World Cup (they lost on penalties) lose their first game in 2018. They next face Switzerland on June 22.

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