Mitrovic on target as Serbia win 2-0 in China
Newcastle United forward Aleksandar Mitrovic was on target as clinical Serbia stepped up their preparations for the World Cup with a hard-earned 2-0 friendly win in China on Friday.
Serbia, under caretaker coach Mladen Krstajic after they parted company with Slavoljub Muslin last month even though he had just guided them into the World Cup finals, will need to play better if they are to make an impression next summer.
China, who will not be in Russia but are slowly improving under Italian World Cup winner Marcello Lippi, were again left to reflect on their lack of firepower as they drew a blank in Guangzhou.
The game came to life in the 19th minute when the highly-rated Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic fired straight at Yan Junling in the home goal.
A minute later, Serbia took the lead as Torino's Adem Ljajic lashed the ball past Yan after a Dusan Tadic effort was blocked.
That sparked a reaction from China and their first effort of note arrived in the 25th minute when Zhao Yuhao had his shot from outside the box parried away by Vladimir Stojkovic.
Winger Wu Lei, China's most dangerous player on the night, then fired over the bar after a good run.
Serbia should have doubled their lead four minutes before the break when beefy striker Mitrovic, who has failed to convince at Newcastle, rose unmarked from close range. His header however was too close to Yan and the goalkeeper dealt with it easily.
China, who scored just eight goals in 10 games as they bowed out of World Cup contention in the last qualifying round, came out for the second half with intent.
Wu twice went close as China cranked up the pressure, but then Serbia broke away and an unmarked Mitrovic rammed in a trademark header to bury the game on 69 minutes.
China host Colombia in another friendly on Tuesday and Serbia travel to South Korea.