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Belgrade edge past South Region Russia

South Region Russia 2-3 Belgrade
Marko Gudović's goal proved to be decisive as the Serbian side held on for three points in a thrilling Group B encounter in Fao.

Belgrade celebrate a goal against South Region Russia
Belgrade celebrate a goal against South Region Russia ©Sportsfile

Belgrade started their UEFA Regions' Cup campaign with a thrilling victory against South Region Russia which gives them the early initiative in Group B.

The Serbian side started brightly in the late evening sunshine and were ahead within four minutes, when Zoran Kaludjerović touched on Željko Muratovski's corner for the unmarked Stefan Živković to head in. Jovan Blagojević and Elnaz Valiulin then traded first-half strikes before Marko Gudović restored the two-goal lead for Belgrade on 73 minutes.

Though fellow substitute Grant Avanyan reduced arrears late on, it was not enough to.prevent Belgrade stealing a march on Ankara and Leinster & Munster, who drew 0-0 in the other game.

Sergei Lednev, the six-goal top scorer in qualifying, almost cancelled out Kaludjerović's strike but his low drive flashed wide. Belgrade were clearly having the better of the opening exchanges, though, with the impressive Blagojević at the heart of most of their good work.

Indeed, it was the midfielder who doubled his side's advantage, thanks to sheer persistence. Powering into the penalty area, Blagojević saw his first shot blocked but, undeterred by the attentions of his many markers, continued his surge through a packed box before coolly clipping the ball past Koporushkin.

That advantage was halved in the 37th minute when Elnaz blasted the ball past Uroš Miljković from 20 metres. Buoyed by their first-half strike, and roared on by a pocket of Russian support in the stands, South Region started the second period in determined mood, with the tricky Alexander Ushakov and Konstantin Shapakidze combining well down the right.

Yet, despite such pressure, it was Belgrade who were celebrating next when, with almost his first touch, Gudović latched onto Muratovski's inviting pass and slid the ball in. That was not the end of the scoring, however, as South Region's endeavour eventually yielded a goal, Ushakov clipping the ball into the path of the onrushing Shapakidze, who scuffed shot fell kindly to Avanyan.

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