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Serbia see off Portugal in shoot-out

Serbia 2-2 Portugal (aet: Serbia win 3-2 on pens)
Goalkeeper Predrag Rajković saved two kicks and Aleksandar Mitrović converted the winning penalty as Serbia reached a first U19 final.

Serbia players celebrate after their shoot-out success
Serbia players celebrate after their shoot-out success ©Sportsfile

Serbia reached the UEFA European Under-19 Championship final for the first time as they overcame Portugal on penalties in an epic semi-final.

Having lost at this juncture in three previous appearances, Uroš Djurdjević's early header gave Serbia the perfect start in Alytus as a Portugal side making their first last-four appearance since 2003 took time to find their feet. Their mounting pressure paid off in the second period, however, as goals from Bernardo Silva and, 11 minutes from time, Alexandre Guedes, seemed to have taken them into Thursday's final, before Mijat Gačinović levelled.

With extra time not separating the teams, it was down to penalties and, although Marko Pavlovski fired Serbia's first kick against the post, Predrag Rajković denied Alexandre Guedes and João Teixeira, whileLuis Rafael shot over. Despite Dejan Meleg's miss, that gave Aleksandar Mitrović the chance to finally settle the contest, and he made no mistake.

Serbia finished their final Group B match, against France, on the front foot and despite making six changes maintained that momentum, Mitrović threatening before 20 seconds had been played. Six minutes later the same player was involved as Serbia did indeed take the lead, he and Djurdjević working space for right-back Petar Golubović to advance and deliver a perfect cross for Djurdjević to nod inside the far post.

Two minutes later Mitrović fired narrowly wide before Portugal began to settle. With Serbia dropping ever deeper Emílio Peixe's team began to control possession although without unduly troubling a blanket defence. Portugal, however, re-emerged after half-time with renewed purpose and Rafael and Lopes both threatened before the equaliser materialised in the 55th minute. Carlos Mané determinedly retained possession down the right and found Silva, who swapped passes with Ricardo Horta and slotted past Rajković.

Portugal continued to look dangerous, particularly when they spread the ball wide. From one such move, João Cancelo's clever reverse pass set Lopes in on goal. Rajković blocked the shot, but only the post kept out Guedes' follow-up. Three minutes later, fortune seemed to have turned decisively in Portugal's favour as Guedes' flicked header form Luís Rafael's left-wing cross bounced in off the same upright.

The lead, however, was brief as substitute Gačinović latched on to Miloš Veljković's pass to turn sharply and fire in the 85th-minute goal that took the tie into extra time. There Lopes pulled the clearest opening across the face of goal while Hélder Costa fired wide, and those misses would cost Portugal dear in the shoot-out.