Tomas Soucek struck late on yet again as West Ham secured their passage into the knock-out stages of the Europa League despite a Serbian snooze-fest against Backa Topola.

The Czech midfielder has now scored in his last five matches for club and country after an 89th-minute volley earned a scratchy 1-0 win.

Now they need to finish the job against Freiburg at the London Stadium in a fortnight to ensure they top the group and avoid a two-legged play-off in February.

Around 320 hardy West Ham fans made the 2,000-mile journey out to the Balkans, including a 100-mile trek up the motorway from Belgrade to the TSC Arena.

Many of them had got their wish, in the absence of injured forwards Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio, of a first start of the season for 19-year-old FA Youth Cup-winning striker Divin Mubama.

But the youngster barely got a sniff of the ball as West Ham struggled to rouse themselves in the sleepy Serbian town.

The hosts came into the encounter on the back of a 4-0 win over Super League leaders Partizan at the weekend, and they made a confident start with Uros Milovanovic forcing an early save from Lukasz Fabianski.

Then an error from Aaron Cresswell, handed a rare start in one of seven changes from the side which snatched a late win at Burnley thanks to Soucek’s goal, gifted Aleksandar Cirkovic a shooting opportunity with Fabianski saving again.

West Ham registered their first shot on target after half an hour, a tame effort from Said Benrahma on his 150th West Ham appearance which was easily dealt with by Veljko Ilic.

But it was a mind-numbing first half neatly summed up by former player Joe Cole, on TNT Sports, as “dross” and “appalling”.

Boss David Moyes turned to Danny Ings and the lesser-spotted Maxwel Cornet just after the hour, replacing Benrahma and Mubama, in a bid to inject some life into his unconvincing side.

And as the game ticked into stoppage tie Cornet crossed from the left and Soucek hammered in a volley to win it.

West Ham have enjoyed a thrilling run in Europe over the past three seasons, including their historic Europa Conference League final triumph in Prague.

Although this was not one which will live long in the memory it was an 18th win in 20 matches in Europe, job done for Moyes and his side.

Novak Djokovic was left to rue a “bitter” end to another record-breaking season after losing twice to Jannik Sinner as Italy defeated Serbia to reach the Davis Cup final.

The world number one suffered an unwanted career first when he failed to convert three consecutive match points in a pulsating 6-2 2-6 7-5 singles loss – his first in the competition in 22 matches and 12 years.

Serbia had led 1-0 in the semi-final in Malaga thanks to Miomir Kecmanovic’s win over Lorenzo Musetti but Djokovic’s defeat sent the tie to a deciding doubles contest.

Djokovic and Sinner lined up on opposite sides of the net for the fourth time in less than two weeks alongside Kecmanovic and Lorenzo Sonego respectively, and it was the Italian duo who clinched a 6-3 6-4 win to send their country through to a clash with Australia for the title on Sunday.

Djokovic had hoped to crown the season in which he became the most successful man in tennis history with a second Davis Cup title, and he made no attempt to hide his disappointment.

“Congratulations to Italy for qualifying for the finals,” he said. “They deserved it. They played really well, particularly Jannik, in singles against me and then doubles, as well. He barely missed a ball the entire match.

“For me personally it’s a huge disappointment, because I take the responsibility, obviously having three match points, being so close to winning it. It’s unfortunate really. This is sport. When you lose for your country, the bitter feeling is even greater.”

After Kecmanovic had backed up his fine showing against Britain’s Jack Draper by coming from a set down to defeat Musetti 6-7 (7) 6-2 6-1, the stage seemed set for Djokovic to send Serbia through to the final.

The confidence Sinner had gained from his group stage victory over Djokovic at the ATP Finals was negated by a convincing loss in the final but the world number one looked fatigued, perhaps more mentally than physically, during the first set.

Both men had headed straight from Turin to Malaga but Sinner is 14 years younger than his rival and he took full advantage of some uncharacteristic errors to reel off five games in a row.

It was another excellent atmosphere at the Palacio de Deportes Martin Carpena, befitting the sort of marquee clash that Davis Cup has not seen enough of over the last decade and more.

Djokovic showed more positive energy at the start of the second set and was pushing for a break throughout the decider.

But Sinner refused to buckle, saving break points in two separate games prior to his remarkable renaissance at 4-5, when he won five points in a row from 0-40.

In a reminder that even the very best are not immune to pressure, the Serbian was then broken himself and Sinner served out a stunning victory.

Djokovic’s record in doubles is poor and, in a contest that made up for in drama what it lacked in quality, the Italian duo claimed a deserved victory to crown Sinner’s special day.

The world number one, who again became involved with the crowd, this time conducting along to Italian jeers, refused to blame fatigue, saying: “I don’t want to talk about it because it’s going to sound like an excuse.

“Obviously this is a tough one to swallow. I was really trying to hype myself and encourage myself for this week. Throughout the entire season, my thoughts were this week with my Davis Cup team. I tried to contribute. I did in the first tie, but today it wasn’t meant to be.”

Jannik Sinner stunned Novak Djokovic with wins in singles and doubles to send Italy through to a first Davis Cup final for 20 years.

Djokovic suffered an unwanted career first when he failed to convert three consecutive match points in a pulsating 6-2 2-6 7-5 singles loss against world number four Sinner.

It was Djokovic’s first defeat in a Davis Cup singles rubber since a retirement against Juan Martin Del Potro 12 years ago, ending a 21-match winning run.

Serbia had led 1-0 in the semi-final in Malaga thanks to Miomir Kecmanovic’s win over Lorenzo Musetti but Djokovic’s loss sent the tie to a deciding doubles contest.

Djokovic and Sinner lined up on opposite sides of the net for the fourth time in less than two weeks alongside Kecmanovic and Lorenzo Sonego respectively, and it was the Italian duo who clinched a 6-3 6-4 win to send their country through to a clash with Australia for the title on Sunday.

After Kecmanovic had backed up his fine showing against Britain’s Jack Draper by coming from a set down to defeat Musetti 6-7 (7) 6-2 6-1, the stage seemed set for Djokovic to send Serbia through to the final.

The confidence Sinner had gained from his group stage victory over Djokovic at the ATP Finals was negated by a convincing loss in the final but the world number one looked fatigued, perhaps more mentally than physically, during the first set.

Both men had headed straight from Turin to Malaga but Sinner is 14 years younger than his rival and he took full advantage of some uncharacteristic errors to reel off five games in a row.

It was another excellent atmosphere at the Palacio de Deportes Martin Carpena, befitting the sort of marquee clash that Davis Cup has not seen enough of over the last decade and more.

Djokovic had made winning a first title with Serbia since 2010 one of his big priorities and he showed more positive energy at the start of the second set, breaking for the first time to lead 3-1 after his opponent double-faulted.

A second break sent the contest to a deciding set, where it seemed a case of when rather than if Djokovic would find the breakthrough.

But Sinner refused to buckle, saving break points in two separate games prior to his remarkable renaissance at 4-5, when he won five points in a row from 0-40.

The missed opportunities seemed to play on Djokovic’s mind and, in a reminder that even the very best are not immune to pressure, the Serbian netted a routine shot to hand Sinner a break point and was then passed after an ill-advised serve and volley.

Moments later, Djokovic blasted a return long to the sounds of Italian jubilation and stunned Serbian silence, with Sinner saying: “It was an incredible match. We were one point away from being out of the competition but we are still here.”

Djokovic’s singles record in Davis Cup may be formidable but his doubles one is anything but, with only four wins from 11 previous matches.

None of the four players picked are regulars on the doubles circuit but the Italian duo looked much more at home in the format and broke Djokovic’s serve on the way to taking the opening set.

They were a break up early in the second, too, but this time Serbia came back and, having lost his cool with the British crowd on Thursday, here Djokovic began conducting the Italian jeers.

After Sinner saved four break points to hold for 3-3, another long game, this time on the Kecmanovic serve, resulted in a break for the pumped up Italian pair, and fittingly it was Sinner who served out the victory.

The Lawn Tennis Association has called on British fans to show respect to opposing players after Novak Djokovic’s spat with supporters at the Davis Cup in Malaga.

Djokovic defeated Cameron Norrie 6-4 6-4 to secure a 2-0 victory for Serbia over Great Britain in the quarter-finals on Thursday evening but was very unhappy when a section of the 5,000-strong British support tried to drown out his post-match interview with drumming.

Djokovic, who had earlier ironically blown kisses to a vocal British fan at the end of the first set, told the supporters: “Learn how to respect players, learn how to behave yourself.” He then added: “No, you shut up, you be quiet,” as the row continued.

British captain Leon Smith played down the incident, arguing that noisy, partisan atmospheres are central to the Davis Cup.

An LTA spokesperson said: “Passion is a unique component of the Davis Cup and it is a competition where emotions run high. We are lucky to have strong travelling support and would always encourage GB supporters to behave with respect for our opposition.”

Rather awkwardly for the governing body, it does provide help to some supporter groups, including the one in question, the Stirling University Barmy Army, to travel to ties in order to create a good atmosphere.

The row overshadowed what was a disappointing end to an encouraging season in the competition for Smith’s men.

Norrie played well and kept the scoreline relatively close against the world number one without ever remotely threatening an upset but the damage was done when Jack Draper lost out 7-6 (2) 7-6 (6) to Miomir Kecmanovic in the opening rubber.

It was only the 21-year-old’s second Davis Cup match and one he will unquestionably learn from, with Draper set to be central to Britain’s hopes over the next decade and more.

He has recovered well from an injury-hit first two-thirds of the season, reaching the fourth round of the US Open and his first ATP Tour final in Sofia earlier this month to pull his ranking back up to 60.

“I’m really proud of the improvements I made this year,” said Draper. “I think, though I lost the match, I’m trying to play in the right way. I didn’t serve great, but I’m trying to look to come forward a lot more.

“I think it’s only exciting with me. I’ve got so much to improve on. That’s an amazing thing. Just reset and look for improvements.”

Draper also backed Smith to continue his long tenure in the captain’s role. It is now eight years since the Scot guided Britain to a stunning Davis Cup title, and next year will be his 14th at the helm.

“He creates an amazing environment,” said Draper. “We all want to play for him, all want to work hard. He only is positive around us in my opinion.

“It’s up to him if he wants to step down or not, but I’d be very happy if he stayed on and we can keep playing, because he’s a great captain, a good guy. He gives us a lot.”

Without a peak Andy Murray, Smith has had more difficult selection decisions to make, and last year’s group-stage exit ended in recriminations when Dan Evans claimed he should have been picked for doubles.

He got his wish this year, which paid off when he played the key role in helping Britain reach the last eight only for a calf injury to rule him out of this week’s event.

Had Evans been available rather than cheering from the stands, things might have turned out differently, and, with Murray also sidelined, Smith was left with a team that picked itself.

He will hope that Norrie rediscovers his best form next season having now lost three Davis Cup rubbers in a row, and there were some encouraging signs against Djokovic despite the final result.

Britain will find out on Sunday if they have been awarded a wild card for September’s group stage or must play a qualifier in February, while Djokovic and Serbia have their eyes on the big prize and a crunch semi-final against Italy on Saturday.

The match will see Djokovic clash with Jannik Sinner for the third time in a week and a half in the biggest Davis Cup singles match for many years.

Sinner handed Djokovic his first defeat since the Wimbledon final in the group stage of the ATP Finals only for the world number one to take revenge in the final.

Djokovic, who is unbeaten in Davis Cup singles rubbers since 2011, said: “We’re developing a nice rivalry lately. I have tons of respect for him.

“He’s been playing arguably the tennis of his life. I saw a little bit of the singles and doubles that he won (against the Netherlands on Thursday). Amazing. He really played on a high level. I could see that he was very pumped to play for his nation.

“I’m not playing bad myself. So it’s going to be, I think, a great match.”

Novak Djokovic told rowdy British fans to “shut up” after leading Serbia to a 2-0 victory in the Davis Cup quarter-finals in Malaga.

The world number one showed his annoyance with a section of the 5,000-strong British support by cupping his ear and blowing ironic kisses at the end of the first set of his 6-4 6-4 victory over Cameron Norrie.

When the same group of fans began drumming during Djokovic’s on-court interview, the Serbian responded: “Learn how to respect players, learn how to behave yourself,” before adding, “no, you shut up, you be quiet”.

It was a sour end to what was a disappointing evening for Britain, with the writing on the wall once Jack Draper fell to a 7-6 (2) 7-6 (6) defeat by Miomir Kecmanovic in a opening rubber that was a must-win.

On his spat with the supporters, Djokovic said: “In the Davis Cup, it’s normal that sometimes fans step over the line but, in the heat of the moment, you react too, and you show that you don’t allow this kind of behaviour.

“They can do whatever they want, but I’m going to respond to that. I was trying to talk and they were purposely starting to play the drums so that I don’t talk and they were trying to annoy me the entire match. So we had a little bit of a chat in the end.”

Britain’s dramatic success against France in Manchester in September had sent them through to the final eight event for the first time in the revamped format.

The tie did not get under way until 6.10pm, more than two hours later than billed, because of the over-running first match of the day between Italy and the Netherlands.

The near-capacity crowd, which also included a sizeable number of Serbian supporters, gave the event the sort of authentic Davis Cup feel that has so often been missing since the switch from the home-and-away format.

Among those sat in the stands at the Palacio de Deportes Martin Carpena was Dan Evans, who had hoped to build on his brilliant performances in Manchester before a calf injury prematurely ended his season.

But even the British number two would have had his work cut out against an inspired Kecmanovic, who was chosen ahead of the higher-ranked Laslo Djere and fully justified the decision.

Draper had the better form coming in having reached his first ATP Tour final this month and had beaten Kecmanovic – ranked five places higher at 55 – earlier this year, but the Serbian was dominant on serve and edged two tie-breaks.

It was only the 21-year-old’s second Davis Cup rubber and he admitted knowing Djokovic was looming added to the nerves he felt.

“That’s seemingly a must-win match for me,” said Draper. “It’s definitely a tough challenge to go out there knowing that there is a lot more pressure on me to win the match.

“That’s the kind of pressure that, if I want to be a top player, I have to cope with and have to perform under. It’s tough not to get the win today. I gave it all I had mentally. I didn’t do a few things as well as I wanted to, but he played a great match.”

Djokovic had lost only six of his 61 previous matches this season, with just one defeat since the Wimbledon final, while his Davis Cup record is utterly formidable.

It is 12 years since he lost a singles match in the competition, and even that was by retirement, with now 21 straight wins and only four sets dropped.

Norrie had managed only a single set in three previous meetings and has endured a miserable run since the clay-court swing back in the spring, but he was captain Leon Smith’s only option once Andy Murray pulled out with a minor shoulder injury.

He did not put in a bad performance by any means, but was fire-fighting from the moment he was broken at 2-2 in the opening set and won only eight points on Djokovic’s serve during the contest.

While Serbia are a step closer to the trophy, Britain must start again in February in the qualifiers – barring an unlikely wild card through to September’s group stage.

Novak Djokovic ended Great Britain’s hopes of winning another Davis Cup title as he led Serbia to a 2-0 quarter-final victory in Malaga.

Britain’s dramatic success against France in Manchester in September had sent them through to the final eight event for the first time in the revamped format.

But they fell at the first hurdle, with Miomir Kecmanovic defeating Jack Draper 7-6 (2) 7-6 (6) before Djokovic comfortably saw off Cameron Norrie 6-4 6-4 to send a jubilant Serbia through to a semi-final against Italy on Saturday.

Given the presence of Djokovic, who cemented his position at the top of the sport by winning a seventh ATP Finals title on Sunday, Britain’s hopes depended on Draper winning the first rubber.

The tie did not get under way until 6.10pm, more than two hours later than billed, because of the over-running first match of the day between Italy and the Netherlands.

There were around 5,000 British fans in a near-capacity crowd, giving the event the sort of authentic Davis Cup feel that has so often been missing since the switch from the home-and-away format.

Among those sat in the stands at the Palacio de Deportes Martin Carpena was Dan Evans, who had hoped to build on his brilliant performances in Manchester before a calf injury prematurely ended his season.

But even the British number two would have had his work cut out against an inspired Kecmanovic, who was chosen ahead of the higher-ranked Laslo Djere and fully justified the decision.

Draper had the better form coming in having reached his first ATP Tour final this month and had beaten Kecmanovic – ranked five places higher at 55 – earlier this year, but the Serbian was dominant on serve and edged two tie-breaks.

Draper hung on during the first set, saving two break points at 3-4 and then two set points at 4-5 with some gutsy play only to double fault twice in the tie-break.

His chance came when he recovered from 2-5 to level at 5-5 in the second tie-break but, despite saving a match point, he could not force a decider.

It was only the 21-year-old’s second Davis Cup rubber and he admitted knowing Djokovic was looming added to the nerves he felt.

“That’s seemingly a must-win match for me,” said Draper. “It’s definitely a tough challenge to go out there knowing that there is a lot more pressure on me to win the match.

“That’s the kind of pressure that, if I want to be a top player, I have to cope with and have to perform under. It’s tough not to get the win today. I gave it all I had mentally. I didn’t do a few things as well as I wanted to, but he played a great match.”

Djokovic had lost only six of his 61 previous matches this season, with just one defeat since the Wimbledon final, while his Davis Cup record is utterly formidable.

It is 12 years since he lost a singles match in the competition, and even that was by retirement, with now 21 straight wins and only four sets dropped.

Norrie had managed only a single set in three previous meetings and has endured a miserable run since the clay-court swing back in the spring, but he was captain Leon Smith’s only option once Andy Murray pulled out with a minor shoulder injury.

He did not put in a bad performance by any means, but was fire-fighting from the moment he was broken at 2-2 in the opening set, throwing everything he had at Djokovic to fight back from 0-40 in his next service game.

The Serbian lost just three points on serve in the first set – and only eight in the match – and blew kisses towards a vocal British fan who had been warned by the umpire after clinching it to love.

Norrie promptly dropped serve to start the second set before again hanging on grimly, this time saving five break points at 1-3, but Djokovic was able to stay in his comfort zone through to the finish line.

While Serbia are a step closer to the trophy, Britain must start again in February in the qualifiers – barring an unlikely wild card through to September’s group stage.

Great Britain’s hopes of reaching the Davis Cup semi-finals were hanging by a thread after Jack Draper lost the opening rubber to Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic in Malaga.

Draper’s 7-6 (2) 7-6 (6) defeat left Cameron Norrie needing to hand Novak Djokovic just his seventh loss of the season to send the tie to a deciding doubles.

Serbia sprang a surprise by picking Kecmanovic, ranked five places above Draper at 55 in the world, ahead of their number two Laslo Djere, but the 24-year-old fully justified the decision with an impressive display.

Twenty-one-year-old Draper was unable to impose his big game on the match and came out on the wrong end of two tie-breaks in a contest lasting two hours and two minutes.

The tie did not get under way until 6.10pm, more than two hours later than billed, because of the over-running first match of the day between Italy and the Netherlands.

Around 5,000 British fans, including Dan Evans, who was forced out of the event through injury after playing the leading role in qualification, made up the majority of a virtually full crowd at the Palacio de Deportes Martin Carpena.

The International Tennis Federation’s decision to move away from the traditional home-and-away format and to a World Cup-style event has been unpopular with players and fans, but this was the sort of occasion they would have envisaged.

It was a huge moment for Draper, who only played his first match in the competition in September in Manchester and now found British hopes depending on him given the presence of Djokovic in the second rubber.

He could draw on better recent form than Kecmanovic, having reached his first ATP Tour final in Sofia earlier this month while the Serbian had lost his last four matches, and also won their only previous meeting on clay in May.

But Kecmanovic is a quality player who was ranked in the top 30 at the start of the year and, despite three aces in his first service game from Draper, it was the Serbian who was the more impressive in the early stages.

Draper had to dig deep to save two break points in a long eighth game and then found himself facing two set points at 4-5, which he again fought off in gutsy fashion.

But two double faults cost him dearly in the tie-break and left him with a lot of work to do to turn the match around.

Neither man faced a break point in the second set, but again it was Kecmanovic who looked the more convincing on serve.

After losing five points in a row from 2-0 up in the tie-break, Draper did well to level at 5-5 and then save a match point with a volley that just caught the line, but a wayward forehand gave Kecmanovic a second chance and this time the British youngster netted a return.

Great Britain have been drawn to play Novak Djokovic’s Serbia in the Davis Cup quarter-finals in Malaga.

Britain secured their place in November’s knockout stage by finishing top of qualifying Group B on Sunday night after their thrilling 2-1 win against France.

Defending champions Canada will face Finland, the Czech Republic play Group B runners-up Australia and the Netherlands take on Italy.

The final eight nations will compete for the 2023 Davis Cup in Malaga from November 21-26.

Britain secured their place in this year’s finals after Dan Evans and Neal Skupski saved four match points in their decisive doubles match against French pair Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin at a sold-out AO Arena in Manchester.

Evans and Skupski clinched a 1-6 7-6 (4) 7-6 (6) win in the deciding rubber after earlier 2-1 wins against both Australia and Switzerland.

Britain captain Leon Smith opted to play his highest-ranked duo Cameron Norrie and Evans in the singles against France.

Andy Murray and Jack Draper had featured against Switzerland and Australia respectively, while world number three in the doubles rankings Skupski completed the five-man line-up.

Smith is confident Britain can mount a serious challenge to repeat their success of 2015 when Murray led them to their last Davis Cup win with victory over Belgium in the final.

Juventus midfielder Filip Kostic has been ruled out of Serbia's Euro 2024 qualifier against Montenegro with an Achilles injury.

The 30-year-old played a full part in Friday's 2-0 win over Lithuania and set up Dusan Tadic's early opener.

But Kostic will not be available against Montenegro at Podgorica City Stadium on Monday, having returned to his club side for treatment.

"It's bad news for us," Serbia head coach Dragan Stojkovic said at Sunday's pre-match press conference. "He left the team because he has Achilles tendinitis.

"There is no need to take any risks with him. The decision was to return to the club. I'm always sorry when a player gets injured – there's nothing worse for a coach."

Juventus will hope to have Kostic available for a busy run of fixtures when they return to action later this week.

Massimiliano Allegri's side have nine games in April across three competitions, starting with Saturday's Serie A meeting with Hellas Verona at the Allianz Stadium.

Kostic has played in 38 of Juve's 39 matches this season – only Danilo has featured as regularly – and has a team-high 11 assists to go with his three goals.

FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Uruguayan Football Association and four of the Celeste's players – including Edinson Cavani and Diego Godin – following the team's furious reaction to their World Cup exit.

Uruguay failed to escape Group H despite Friday's 2-0 win over Ghana, as South Korea advanced at their expense following their comeback victory against Portugal.

Diego Alonso's team were ultimately eliminated on the basis of goals scored, and reacted angrily when Cavani was denied a late penalty after going down in the Ghana 18-yard box.

Social media footage showed the former Manchester United striker pushing the VAR monitor over after the final whistle, while several other Uruguay players surrounded referee Daniel Siebert.

FIFA detailed the charges, alleging misconduct of Uruguayan players and officials, offensive behaviour and discrimination, in a statement released on Monday.

The statement also said Uruguay quartet Cavani, Godin, Jose Gimenez and Fernando Muslera were being investigated separately for alleged offences relating to offensive behaviour, violations of the principles of fair play and misconduct. 

Speaking after the game, which almost certainly marked the end of his World Cup career, striker Luis Suarez declared: "FIFA is always against Uruguay".

In a separate statement, FIFA revealed Serbia would also face charges of misconduct, discrimination and failure to preserve order and security following their fractious 3-2 defeat to Switzerland on the same day.

Serbia's loss ensured they finished bottom of Group G, while Switzerland advanced to the last 16 by joining pre-tournament favourites Brazil on six points.

Granit Xhaka found himself at the centre of another controversy involving Serbia after donning a shirt with 'Jashari' on the back following Switzerland’s 3-2 win in Doha on Friday.

Xhaka produced a man of the match display as the Swiss hit back from 2-1 down to secure second place in Group G and advance to a last-16 clash with Portugal on Tuesday.

But his actions after the final whistle could attract the attention of FIFA.

In the post-match celebrations, Xhaka put on a shirt carrying the name 'Jashari'. Asked afterwards what it meant, the Arsenal midfielder claimed it was for Switzerland squad member Ardon Jashari.

However, the name carries significance in other ways with Adem Jashari a late founder of the Kosovo Liberation Army, a Kosovo Albanian separatist group that fought for independence from the former Yugoslavia.

Xhaka is of ethnic Albanian heritage linked to Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008 but has not been recognised by Serbia. 

Asked about the shirt afterwards, Xhaka said: "There’s no political background to it whatsoever.

"Ardon is part of our squad and we spend a lot of time together. I told him if we won I would wear his shirt."

Xhaka was a key figure throughout a feisty encounter. He also prompted a second-half melee that saw the Serbia bench encroach on to the pitch after making a crude gesture, thought to be in the direction of substitute goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic, whose personal life has been the subject of speculation this week.

Switzerland boss Murat Yakin said he will "wait and see" if action is taken against Xhaka.

"We will enjoy this moment, it cost us a lot of emotions and energy. It was a fair match," he said.

"Before the game a lot of people were talking about the situation but we were able to face that challenge.

"We are happy we are moving on. Everything else is speculation and we will wait and see."

On the incident involving Rajkovic, Yakin added: "What I saw was a Granit Xhaka who was focused fully on football and performed very well. I saw the players from Serbia crossing the line, and others trying to calm them down. It was a normal exchange."

It is not the first time Xhaka has been embroiled in controversy against Serbia. At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, he and Xherdan Shaqiri were fined after crossing their hands to mimic the eagle displayed on the Albanian flag in Switzerland’s 2-1 win.

Shaqiri also played his part in Switzerland's victory here, scoring the opening goal at Stadium 974, but appeared annoyed to be taken off after 69 minutes.

"No-one likes to be subbed," Yakin said. "Every player wants to play the whole game, but it’s part of my responsibility to protect players. He scored his goal and had a great assist.

"The substitutes brought great energy and I thought they did well."

The flashpoints overshadowed a wonderful game with Switzerland’s greater composure at key moments proving decisive.

Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic praised his players but lamented the fact so many were struggling for fitness throughout their time in Qatar. He also insisted he had no intention of resigning.

He said: "We are not happy with the result but, given the problems we faced from our arrival here and the injuries we had to contend with, it was too much for us to cope with.

"The guys put up a fight but at this level that is not enough.

"As for my future, in March we start the qualifiers for the European Championship and we have a great desire to qualify."

Stojkovic claimed not to hear any of the chants that prompted an announcement over the public address system asking fans to refrain from discriminatory songs or gestures, thought to originate from sections housing Serbian supporters.

Switzerland playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri proved Serbia's nemesis once more by helping knock Dragan Stojkovic's men out of the World Cup on a tumultuous night at Stadium 974.

Shaqiri netted a last-minute winner against Serbia at the 2018 tournament in Russia and celebrated by making an eagle shape with his hands to show his support for Kosovo, the country of his birth and a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. That independence is not recognised by Serbia. 

The Chicago Fire man was booed and jeered throughout while at least one Serbia fan was thrown out for anti-Kosovo chanting.

Shaqiri had the last laugh with the opening goal as Switzerland, who came into the game knowing a draw would most likely be enough, advanced from Group G with a dramatic 3-2 win, alongside Brazil despite their surprise 1-0 defeat to Cameroon.

Switzerland nearly went ahead inside the first minute when Granit Xhaka's partially blocked shot fell beautifully for Breel Embolo but Serbia goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic made a smart block before parrying Xhaka's follow up.

Andrija Zivkovic struck the post from 20 yards in response for Serbia but Murat Yakin's men deservedly led after 20 minutes.

Djibril Sow recovered Ricardo Rodriguez's left-wing cross and nudged it into the path of Shaqiri, who fired home via a deflection off Strahinja Pavlovic before running off to celebrate by putting a finger to his lips in front of the s

Serbia responded superbly six minutes later when Dusan Tadic's left-wing cross was guided brilliantly past Gregor Kobel by Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Shaqiri arrowed wide when clean through, before Tadic impressed again to find Vlahovic, who turned smartly to fire past Kobel despite Remo Freuler almost taking the ball away from the Juventus striker.

It was Switzerland’s turn to dig deep and they did so admirably, Embolo turning in Silvan Widmer’s cross at the far post to make it the first time since England v Argentina in 1998 that both teams had scored at least twice in a World Cup game before half-time.

Switzerland completed the turnaround three minutes into the second half. Shaqiri chipped the ball in for Ruben Vargas, who flicked the ball beautifully on for Freuler to finish expertly.

Tempers frayed as Serbia sensed their time in Qatar was coming to an end - substitute goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic was booked for encroaching on to the pitch to confront the referee while a public address announcement asked for Serbian fans to stop making discriminatory chants and gestures.

There was one final flashpoint deep into stoppage time when Nikola Milenkovic and Xhaka clashed with several players looking to get involved. Both Milenkovic and Xhaka - another man with ethnic Albanian heritage linked to Kosovo - were booked.
 

What does it mean? Ronaldo and Portugal await

While Switzerland go on to a meeting with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo on Tuesday, Serbia will head home.

On the balance of play it was the right outcome. Switzerland wobbled towards the end of the first half but, for the most part, played with a composure that Serbia lacked.

Shaqiri joins illustrious duo

Shaqiri may be the man the Serbian fans love to hate but he showed his endearing quality once more with Switzerland's opening goal.

It meant he became just one of three players to score at each of the last three World Cup tournaments. The other two? Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Evergreen Tadic shows his class

Tadic may be 34 but he remains Serbia's creative hub. He supplied the opener with a delicious cross from the left and was also instrumental in the second, although Freuler should have done better with his attempted clearance.

Whether he continues to play international football remains to be seen but he will leave a sizeable hole should he opt to stand down.

What's next?

Switzerland finish as runners-up to Brazil in Group G, and go on to face Portugal in four days' time.

Serbia go home having taken just one point from their three games, against Cameroon.

Serbia "will be ready" for the must-win showdown with Switzerland to keep their World Cup hopes alive, says coach Dragan Stojkovic.

With just a game to go in Group G, and Brazil already into the last 16, the pair will be vying for the final knockout stage spot alongside Cameroon.

Switzerland lie second with three points, while Serbia are at the foot of the table on one point with an inferior goal difference to the Indomitable Lions.

But victory would see them leapfrog their rivals, and potentially qualify if Cameroon also fail to win, with Stojkovic drawing a dairy-related analogy to indicate his side's plans.

"We'd really like to talk about their cheese and find their weak spots - the holes - to get the result," he said.

"We knew after the draw was held that Brazil is an entirely different dimension, and we would be fighting for second place with Cameroon and Switzerland.

"We knew the match with Switzerland would be of major importance as the last one in the group, and this is what we're now faced with. We've witnessed a lot of surprises at this World Cup, but we will be ready."

Serbia have been facing a nervous wait over the fitness of Juventus attacker Dusan Vlahovic, but Stojkovic has confirmed he will be available for the crucial clash.

He would not be drawn on whether he would start, however, adding: "[His] physical state is a lot better than it was when we came to Doha.

"He could start [Friday], but I cannot share this with you today."

Serbia midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic would have accepted knowing a win in their final Group G game against Switzerland would likely be enough to secure progression to the World Cup knockout stages.

Dragan Stojkovic's side have taken just one point from their two games so far, coming in a 3-3 draw against Cameroon last time out, but are still in with a chance of going through, although they need Cameroon to lose to Brazil.

Assuming that happens, a Serbia win would be enough with Switzerland requiring just a draw.

They find themselves in a perilous position but Milinkovic-Savic insists it is not a surprise. Asked if he would have taken this situation beforehand, he said: "Of course. When we saw the draw and the schedule, we knew that everything would depend on the last game.

"We need to take this opportunity with both hands."

Serbia's draw with Cameroon was arguably an opportunity lost given they were leading 3-1 in the second half.

Captain Dusan Tadic said: "It's certainly hard because we led 3-1 and you're not happy when you end up with a draw.

"We created a lot of chances, but of course the goals we conceded should not happen. It starts with the midfield and the defence. We know now we need a win in the last round."

Avoiding defeat is likely to be enough for the Swiss, but boss Murat Yakin will send his players out with clear instructions to try to win the game.

He said: "We’ll have to find the right balance. I think we can be the dominant team, we’ve proven that in the past. It will be exciting, we'll need a good start. 

"As a head coach, you can’t send out a team and tell them a draw is enough.

"Of course we want to try to win this game, we know we have the skills and quality to do so. Hopefully we’ll be well prepared, and then I’m convinced we’ll be the dominant team, we will take more risks.

"It will be an exciting game, we want to focus on football, everything else I don’t really care about."


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Serbia - Aleksandar Mitrovic

The Fulham striker produced a mixed performance in the draw with Cameroon. While he was a nuisance all afternoon and scored a goal, he failed to capitalise on many of the chances that came his way. Twice in the first half he should have done better while he also missed another clear opportunity in the closing stages.

He will need to improve markedly if Serbia are to get the win they require.

 

Switzerland - Yann Sommer

A clean sheet would likely guarantee Switzerland's progression, and Yakin will be reassured by the fact he can count on one of the tournament's in-form goalkeepers.

Only two men have made more saves than Sommer's nine, the Netherlands' Andries Noppert (albeit from three matches rather than Sommer's two) and his opposite number on Friday, Vanja Milinkovic-Savic (12).


PREDICTION

Stats Perform's AI model believes all three outcomes are a distinct possibility with little to separate them.

Serbia are ranked a 39 per cent chance to claim the three points they require, with Switzerland a 34.6 per cent chance. A draw comes in at 26.4 per cent. As is often the case, it will come down to fine margins - a mistake or a moment of genius.

Dusan Vlahovic believes his injury woes are behind him ahead of Serbia's must-win World Cup clash with Switzerland on Friday, declaring he would play "with one leg" if necessary. 

Vlahovic was an unused substitute as Serbia squandered a 3-1 lead in Monday's thrilling 3-3 draw with Cameroon, having only played 24 minutes from the bench in their 2-0 loss to Brazil on matchday one after struggling with a groin injury.

Serbia must beat Switzerland to have any chance of reaching the last 16, while their fate could be decided by goal difference if Cameroon beat Brazil, and Vlahovic is determined to be involved.

Asked about his condition at a press conference on Wednesday, Vlahovic said: "I managed to recover in 10 days to be available for the national team.

"We all talk to the coach every day, he knows my possibilities. If needed with one leg, I'm ready. 

"The question is how much I can help the team. I feel much better and I'm ready to help us go for the win.

"We feel the support and you can see and feel in the air that the people believe in us. We knew that the game with Switzerland would be decisive for us, we live for it. 

"Against them, we promise to play to the maximum. If they are better, let them beat us, if not, we will win."

Switzerland edged out Serbia by two points to qualify from Group E at the 2018 World Cup, claiming a 2-1 victory from a highly charged head-to-head meeting between the teams.  

In the aftermath of that game, Switzerland goalscorers Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri – both of whom are of Albanian-Kosovan descent – were charged by FIFA after appearing to celebrate their strikes by performing an Albanian nationalist gesture.

Those celebrations led to Serbia – which does not recognise Kosovo's independence – lodging a formal complaint, but Vlahovic was unwilling to stray from on-pitch matters ahead of the teams' reunion.

"We are not interested in provocations, we are here for the football story," Vlahovic said.

"There is nothing better and more beautiful than to win the next match. The passage to the knockout phase will mean everything to the whole nation and us."

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