Published Wednesday, 05 March 2014
Republic of Ireland players react to Serbia's second goal (© PA)
It was Ireland's first defeat under O'Neill and Roy Keane as the visitors came from a goal down to score twice in the second half.
There was a dramatic start with Hoolahan putting the ball in the net after just sixty seconds, but his effort was harshly ruled out for offside.
Shane Long did give the home team the lead when he scored after just eight minutes. Serbia captain Branislav Ivanovic was made to pay for his mistake as the Hull striker latched onto his weak back pass and lobbed the keeper Stojkovic.
That early blow seemed to lift the Serbians and they were denied an equaliser on 21 minutes when McCarthy cleared an Ivanovic header off the line.
Long had two great chances to increase Ireland's lead.
On 30 minutes he was played in by Hoolahan, however, his weak shot was saved and then he was ready to pounce from close range but Bisevac got in to clear the low cross from Seamus Coleman.
The second half was only two minutes old when the Serbian fightback began.
Kolarov broke clear and slipped the ball to Djordevic to tap in, but in trying to make the clearance McCarthy put the ball over the line.
The visitors struck the front on 60 minutes, Coleman lost possession and when the ball eventually came in for Djordevic he finished at the far post.
A flurry of substitutions followed from both teams, but Ireland failed to create any real openings and time ran out in their bid to salvage a draw.
Had we taken our chances, I think we would probably have gone on to win the match. I am genuinely pleased with a lot of the game.
Martin O'Neill was left to reflect upon what might have been after seeing his team slip to the first defeat after just three games.
"We created the chances tonight and that was very, very pleasing," he said.
"I don't mean a half-chance or a quarter-chance that we can look at, they were really great chances in the game.
"I am disappointed to have lost the match, of course, but in the scheme of things, there were lots of things that I was pleased about and quite a number of things we can try to work on."
O'Neill added: "Serbia have some very, very decent players and some sort of credit has to go to them.
"They started brightly in the second half, and of course that goal gave them a big lift and they went on to get a second goal.
"It was a rather sloppy one as far as we are concerned, but that said, we had chances, clear-cut chances and overall I was pleased with the fact that we carved those chances out."
© UTV News