Serbia’s Jovic steals the spotlight as Sesko, Vlahovic and Mitrovic all falter again

Harry De Cosemo
Serbia players celebrate late victory over Slovenia
Serbia snatched a late draw against Slovenia

It was meant to be the game for Benjamin Sesko, Aleksandar Mitrovic or Dusan Vlahovic. But none of them could be the Serbian hero and Slovenian heartbreaker.


On paper, Serbia have a rather menacing side, but rarely does that translate onto the pitch. In Dusan Vlahovic and Aleksandar Mitrovic, they have one of the most feared strikeforces at the tournament. but after drawing a blank against England at the weekend, another toothless and tame display against Slovenia in Munich followed.

It was left to Luka Jovic, the substitute, to save the day with a late equaliser. He keeps their Euro 2024 hopes alive, stepping out of his teammates’ shadow. This was an afternoon where strikers were always likely to have the final say. But nobody quite expected what transpired.

For Slovenia, Benjamin Sesko was under the spotlight again. Linked with Arsenal at the start of this summer, he is set to stay with RB Leipzig, but even he struggled to impact the game.

Both sides, understandably, set up to play through their forward lines: Sesko was partnered by Andraz Sporar, once of Middlesbrough, while former Southampton attacker Dusan Tadic played in behind Vlahovic and Mitrovic.

There is a reason strike partnerships are no longer common in modern football; they often stunt a team’s fluidity. That was certainly the case in the first half. It was a game of little inspiration at either end, and it became difficult to understand why Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was left off the bench. In his absence, Serbia lacked drive, guile and a physical presence. The midfield couldn’t connect to the strikers, and they looked lost. Right before the break, though, Jan Oblak was called into action to deny Mitrovic.

It wasn’t much better at the other end for Sesko and Slovenia. He was on the periphery of the game for too long, yet could still claim to have had the best chance of the game. Brilliant work from Timi Max Elnik saw him slalom into the area and strike the post. The ball fell into the path of Sesko, the perfect man for Slovenia, but he was leaning back and fired over.

He did force a strong save from Predrag Rajkovic on the counter-attack in the second half, but ultimately again couldn’t leave his mark.

There was more tempo in the game after the break, quite understandably. Failure to win their respective opening matches means there is a sense of do or die for both teams; it took until the second half for the game to open up fully. But Serbia flattered to deceive again.

👉 England Euro 2024 permutations: How they can qualify and what happens next if they do
👉 England opponents threaten to quit Euro 2024 with UEFA urged to ‘punish’ two nations

Mitrovic was withdrawn early against England and this time it was Vlahovic. Jovic, another striker with great pedigree arrived with Milinkovic-Savic, but it seemed too late.

Slovenia thought they’d won it through Zan Karnicnik with just over 20 minutes to go, but Jovic rewrote the script in the end. His header was literally the last action, and could, depending on the result in the final game against Denmark, be the moment Serbia’s luck begins to change.

This was supposed to be Sesko’s day, or Vlahovic’s. And nobody is more prolific for Serbia than Mitrovic. But in the end it was Jovic, the forgotten man, who became the hero.