FORMER Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic has labelled Saints striker Shane Long a "nightmare" to mark after the pair faced each other in a World Cup qualifier.

Serbia captain Ivanovic, who now plays for Zenit Saint Petersburg in Russia, hailed his side's bravery after managing to repel Long and his Republic of Ireland colleagues.

Ex-Manchester City man Aleksandar Kolarov's goal secured a 1-0 win over Group D rivals at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Ivanovic said: "I know how Premier League football works, but this was the toughest I have ever played against.

"It was a duel all around the pitch, definitely the toughest game we have played so far in the group. I am very proud we showed the courage to come out with the three points.

"We are naturally physical and we have our talents and some of those don't compare with the Irish players and the way they play, especially in the way they attack, but we accept this as natural.

"Both Shane Long and Jon Walters were a nightmare, an absolute handful to mark. I had to stay completely focused on both of them at all times."