NOVI SAD, SERBIA – Dusan Tadic scored with a clinical finish and substitute Milos Jojic added a late second as Japan was sentenced to a comprehensive 2-0 defeat to Serbia in an international friendly on Friday.
Japan created few chances and Tadic opened the scoring for the Serbs just before the hour mark, before Jojic completed victory in injury time in a dull encounter in Novi Sad.
“There were good points and bad points to our game but they (Serbia) had two chances and scored two goals,” shrugged Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni, whose team plays Belarus in another friendly on Tuesday.
“I can take positives from the way we performed against a (tough) team like Serbia. (But) we were not decisive enough in front of goal and it is clear that is what needs working on heading towards the World Cup.”
Added defender Maya Yoshida, “We didn’t have many shots and the way we gave the ball away was not good. They carried the game well.”
There was a brief pause in play after 10 minutes after Dejan Stankovic came off having made his 103rd and last appearance for the Serbian national team. Both teams lined up at the side of the pitch to offer congratulations as the 35-year-old came off to a rousing reception from home fans.
“I’m happy we could win in the last match of a player that will go down in Serbian soccer history,” Serbia coach Sinisa Mihajlovic said of Stankovic.
Once the game resumed, Japan got a fright as Stankovic’s replacement Ivan Radovanivic took advantage of some sloppy defending to fire wide of Eiji Kawashima’s left-hand post.
Neither team created any noteworthy chances in the early stages, although Shinji Kagawa went close to opening the scoring for Japan after a neatly worked move on the half-hour mark.
Japan again threatened to break the deadlock on the stroke of halftime but goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic got down low to his left to save Keisuke Honda’s free kick.
Serbia took the lead on 59 minutes when a fine piece of skill from Dusan Basta set up Tadic to beat a helpless Kawashima with a shot from 12 meters into the top corner.
Shinji Okazaki missed a golden chance to pull Japan level on 70 minutes but screwed wide after good work down the right flank from Kagawa.
Japan enjoyed a spell of pressure late in the second half but Serbia made sure of victory when Jojic bundled home Stefan Scepovic’s pass in the dying seconds.
“It was a difficult match. Japan were compact, technically sound and organized,” said Mihajlovic. “I am happy with the result.”