A second-half strike from Nikola Žigić ensured Serbia marked their first competitive match with a narrow victory against Azerbaijan in UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying Group A in Belgrade.
The home side were competing as a single nation for the first time following the dissolution of Serbia and Montenegro, who competed at the FIFA World Cup in Germany before dividing into two separate countries. The new-look Serbia had made the perfect start with a 3-1 friendly win in the Czech Republic in August, and Žigić's close-range header 18 minutes from time duly secured a second triumph for Javier Clemente's team.
Serbia on top
The Serbia coach kept faith with the majority of the players who had prevailed against the Czechs and the home side took control from the first whistle, Marko Pantelić and Danko Lazović both going close in the opening five minutes. The pattern continued as the half wore on, Dejan Stanković dictating play from the middle of the pitch, although Serbia struggled to break down a resilient Azerbaijan defence before half-time.
Pantelić again threatened in the early stages of the second period, and the hosts' sustained pressure finally paid off as the game entered its final 20 minutes. More good play by Stanković on the right wing created space for the FC Internazionale Milano midfielder to send in a low cross which Žigić nodded past the stranded figure of Farkhad Veliyev from in front of goal. Clemente's men carried on pushing forward in search of a second, but had done enough to secure victory and next visit Poland on Wednesday when Azerbaijan have home advantage against Kazakhstan.