Ljajić stars for club and country in Serbia
Posted by nickogs20 on June 12, 2009
It got somewhat lost in all the end of season excitement at home and the international exploits of those already at the club, but fresh from picking up a Serbian Superliga winners medal with Partizan Belgrade, Adem Ljajić has played a starring role as his national U19 side progressed to this summer’s UEFA U19 European Championships.
The 17 year-old, signed by the Reds in January in a double swoop along with Zoran Tošić and set to arrive at Old Trafford next January, made 23 league appearances and found the net five times as Partizan clinched the championship by a whopping nineteen point margin, no mean feat for a player of that age. Even better was to come for Ljajić and his team-mates, as they defeated FK Sevojno 3-0 in the Serbian Cup Final to clinch a second successive domestic double, with young Adem playing the first 69 minutes.
A possible reason for that early withdrawal (which wasn’t unusual throughout the season anyway, Partizan wisely protecting the youngster from over-exertion) may have been his exploits for his country over the previous ten days, where he had led the U19s through a tricky elite qualifying group on home soil to a place at this summer’s finals in the Ukraine. Coming into the elite round on the back of goals in his previous two competitive games (including one against England as both qualified from Group 9 of the prelims), the teenager from Novi Pazar picked up where he left off with a crucial equaliser in the opening game against Finland, curling home a sublime freekick after doing everything he could to lay goals on a plate for his teammates. You can view the highlights of that game here.
A draw was something of a setback for Aleksandar Stanojević’s side, but after a similarly frustrating first-half in their second game against Austria, the Serbs really got their push for qualification up and running with an impressive second-half display. Ljajić again got on the scoresheet, his low drive from distance being sandwiched by strikes from Vujadin Savic and Nemanja Milic, and even the early loss of Aleksandar Ignjovski to a red card posed few problems. Again, highlights of the game can be seen here.
The Serbs still needed a win from their final game against Hungary to ensure qualification (although as it turned out, with Finland beating Austria in the other match, a draw would have done), and while Ljajić didn’t get his name on the scoresheet on this occasion, a solitary goal from Aleksandar Miljković was enough to earn victory and send Serbia to the finals. With England joining them a few weeks later, the intriguing possibility of Matty James, Danny Drinkwater and co. facing this strong Serbian side and their future team-mate becomes a distinct possibility – the draw for the finals is to be held later this evening.
Look out for a more in-depth feature on Adem Ljajić over the course of the summer.