In a game with a nail biting ending, Macedonia managed to score their first goals and first point on the EURO tournament in the 2:2 draw against Serbia.
National team coach Blagoja Milevski made two changes from the starting squad against Spain, by replacing right back Egzon Bejtulai with his club team-mate Mevlan Murati, as well as playing offensive midfielder Daniel Avramovski as a striker instead of Viktor Angelov.
The anthems before kick-off:
Despite the fact that this game was considered by Macedonia as a must-win match in order to try making it past the group stage – Macedonia started the game very slow, letting Serbia dominate the game throughout the entire first halftime. Eventually, Serbia also managed to capitalize and take the lead in the 24th minute through Gačinović in a rather chaotic action where the Serbian players were first demanding a penalty for a foul by Velkovski and for a handball later on, whereas the Macedonians on the other hand were demanding offside.
After the half time break, Milevski replaced Avramovski with Gjorgjev, and 10 minutes later he also substituted Elmas for Babunski, and this turned out to be the point where Macedonia’s game picked up and started creating chances. In the 64th minute, the substitute Elmas had a dangerous run in the penalty box where he tried to make a cross which was cut off by one of Serbia’s defenders with a hand-play. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and Bardi took the responsibility, and with it he scored the first goal for Macedonia on the tournament.
The game went on to get more intense as both sides started looking for a new goal to put them in lead, and this finally worked out for Macedonia in the 83rd minute when substitute Gjorgjev scored a great goal, leaving the Serbian goalkeeper Milinković-Savić surprised and unable to react. However, Serbia did not give up and at this stage they went all forward trying to equalise, which indeed happened right before the end of the game in the 90th minute, through a header by Serbian captain Djurdjević. 3 minutes later they almost scored a winning goal but luckily for Macedonia, the ball only struck the post before the Macedonian defenders managed to clear out the danger.
After the game, Blagoja Milevski said on the press conference that he made a mistake with the choice of starting formation, which was the reason why Macedonia struggled in the first half time. Furthermore, he also announced that he will make more changes for the last game in the group as Macedonia has lost the chances for a spot in the semi-final, which is why for the game against Portugal he intends to give a chance to the younger players in the squad who will be playing in the upcoming qualifying tournament.
Macedonia U21: 1. Igor Aleksovski; 19. Besir Demiri, 5. Gjoko Zajkov, 14. Darko Velkovski, 21. Mevlan Murati; 7. Enis Bardi, 8. Boban Nikolov (C); 17. Kire Markoski,10. David Babunski (58′ 2. Elif Elmas), 9. Marjan Radeski (86′ 23. Filip Pivkovski); 11. Daniel Avramovski (46′ 22. Nikola Gjorgjev)
In the other game played later the same day, Spain defeated Portugal with 3:1 to top the group with 6 points securing the first place.