Serbia all but sealed their promotion to the second tier of the UEFA Nations League after beating neighbours Montenegro 2-1 in Belgrade.
Now leading Group 4C by two points over Romania, they could’ve booked their place with one fixture to spare had Cosmin Contra’s side failed to win against Lithuania on Saturday.
That clash in Ploiesti ended 3-0 in favour of the hosts, though, extending the battle for top spot to the sixth and final round of fixtures on Tuesday.
Serbia will fancy their chances of finishing first when they return home to face Lithuania, with Romania needing a victory from their trip to Montenegro to have any hope of leapfrogging them.
While it’s a favourable state of affairs, they very nearly cost themselves such a handy position.
Aleksandar Mitrovic played a classic hero-villain role at the Stadion Rajko Mitic in midweek, doubling Serbia’s lead before missing a penalty in humiliating fashion.
The Fulham striker - who has scored five goals in his last three appearances under Mladen Krstajic - was the man asked to take a 37th-minute penalty that would’ve made it 3-0.
However, no doubt buoyed by his impressive run of form, Mitrovic opted for a Panenka-style attempt - and it didn’t go well.
His chip went well over Petkovic’s crossbar and will surely hurt his chances of being entrusted with the next spot kick.
It’s the type of effort that looks ridiculous if it doesn’t come off - see for yourself in the video below…
Luckily for Mitrovic, Serbia held on to win by a single goal despite Stefan Mugosa pulling one back for the visitors in the 70th minute.
There must have been some jittery nerves among Krstajic’s men throughout those final 20 minutes - and Mitrovic clearly regrets throwing away an opportunity to let his team activate cruise control.
Funnily enough, the 24-year-old admitted his decision was inspired by seeing Memphis Depay successfully convert his Panenka penalty against France the evening prior.
MITROVIC REFLECTS ON PENALTY MISS
“I have no idea why I’ve done that, I was watching Depay yesterday and decided at last moment. I am stupid,” he was quoted by Serbian media, per Goal.
Serbia heavily rely on Mitrovic as their attacking focal point and for the most part, he’s delivered since making his senior debut in 2013.
There’s no denying his goalscoring ability, but he does seem better suited to finding the net using more conventional techniques than lobbing the ‘keeper from 12 yards.