Republic of Ireland 1 Serbia 2: Martin O'Neill reflects on what could have been as he suffers first defeat since taking over Irish

Shane Long gave O'Neill's side the lead but Serbia's fightback condemned Ireland to their first loss under O'Neill

Martin O'Neill was left to reflect upon what might have been after seeing the Republic of Ireland slip to the first defeat of his reign.

Ireland took an early lead at the Aviva Stadium and had chances to increase their advantage before eventually succumbing after the break as Serbia fought back to snatch victory.

O'Neill, who was taking charge of his third game, said: "We created the chances tonight and that was very, very pleasing.

"I don't mean a half-chance or a quarter-chance that we can look at, they were really great chances in the game.

"Had we taken those chances, I think we would probably have gone on to win the match. I am genuinely pleased with a lot of the game.

"I am disappointed to have lost the match, of course, but in the scheme of things, there was lots of things that I was pleased about and quite a number of things we can try to work on."

Shane Long handed the Republic, who had seen a second-minute Wes Hoolahan strike controversially ruled out for offside, the lead with eight minutes gone when he latched on to defender Branislav Ivanovic's error to beat goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic.

But the Hull striker passed up another glorious chance on the half hour, and the Serbs took full advantage as James McCarthy's 48th-minute own goal and Filip Dordevic's close-range finish on the hour won the day.

In the meantime, Long had failed to make the most of another fine opening, once again created by the excellent Hoolahan, as Ireland were made to pay for missed opportunities.

O'Neill said: "Sometimes it happens. They [Serbia] have some very, very decent players and some sort of credit has to go to them.

"They started brightly in the second half, and of course that goal gave them a big lift and they went on to get a second goal.

"It was a rather sloppy one as far as we are concerned, but that said, we had chances, clear-cut chances and overall I was pleased with the fact that we carved those chances out."

O'Neill was able to draw plenty of positives from a game which saw the Republic face a significance step up in class in the shape of the Serbs after November's encounters with Latvia and Poland, with Hoolahan's display perhaps the biggest plus.

But it was opposite number Ljubinko Drulovic who was wearing a smile on the final whistle.

Drulovic said: "I'm very happy and very proud. We still have a long way to go, but we played against a very strong team in the Republic of Ireland and I send very big congratulations to all our players."

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003