KALININGRAD, Russia (AFP) — A last-minute Xherdan Shaqiri breakaway goal handed Switzerland victory today as they came from behind to defeat Serbia 2-1 in Kaliningrad.
The win puts Switzerland in pole position to make it out of a tough Group E that contains five-time winners Brazil but they were pushed all the way by the Serbs.
It was a sweet victory for Shaqiri and fellow Swiss goal scorer Granit Xhaka, who along with team-mate Valon Belrami were booed relentlessly by Serbia's fans throughout.
Shaqiri, Xhaka and Belrami trace their roots to Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, a fact which had stoked tensions before the match.
Both Shaqiri and Xhaka pointedly celebrated their goals by making an eagle gesture with their hands, viewed as a symbol of defiance.
Serbia raced out of the blocks, funnelling possession to Southampton winger Dusan Tadic on the right flank, who troubled Switzerland with his crossing all match.
Seconds later, Tadic took the ball past left-back Ricardo Rodriguez, cut back on his favoured left foot and delivered a majestic cross that Mitrovic duly buried with his head.
In a frenetic first half, Switzerland had more of the ball but was sloppy with it, giving away possession in advanced positions and sending Serbia on the break.
Lazio's highly rated Sergej Milinkovic-Savic fizzed a right-footed shot narrowly wide of Sommer's right post on 15 minutes, and Mitrovic almost scored with a spectacular bicycle kick that went the same way minutes later.
, who came to Russia ranked ahead of the likes of France and Spain, felt their way into the game as the first-half progressed.