PARIS – World Cup runners-up Croatia moved to the top of their Euro 2020 qualifying group as Ivan Perisic starred in a clinical 2-1 victory over Wales in Osijek on Saturday.
Inter Milan winger Perisic was involved in both goals, setting up the first as James Lawrence deflected a cross into his own net, and scoring the second just after the break before substitute David Brooks struck for the visitors.
The victory served as a useful reaction for Zlatko Dalic’s men who lost unexpectedly to Hungary in their last game in the campaign.
“These are three big points. We said before the game that it was important to win them. It was difficult to watch, let alone play, but the we achieved our goal,” Dalic told Nova TV.
“The last 15 minutes of the game was out of control, the Welsh could have equalised,” he added.
“Going behind in a game like that makes it difficult but we pushed them hard,” Wales midfielder Joe Allen told Welsh broadcaster S4C.
“David Brooks came on got us back into the game with a goal and we created enough chances for a second and a point,” added Allen, who won his 50th international cap.
The Croats host Tunisia in a friendly on Tuesday as Wales head to Budapest to play Hungary.
The other game of the five-team group, which also includes Slovakia, sees the Hungarians travelling to Azerbaijan later Saturday.
The home side were gifted the game’s opening goal after a quarter of an hour.
They broke on a counter-attack and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric fed the influential Perisic in open space on the left hand-side.
The unmarked Perisic looked up and drilled his cross in the direction of forward Andrej Kramaric on the penalty spot, with a backtracking Lawrence deflecting the ball past Wayne Hennessey.
The Euro 2016 semi-finalists had a chance to equalise with four minutes of the first half to play.
Winger Daniel James, who agreed this week to join Manchester United, looped a ball into the box, but Dinamo Zagreb keeper Dominik Livakovic tidied up his mistake.
The Croatians doubled their lead after less than three minutes of the second half.
Once again the Welsh midfield lost the ball sloppily, Allen tracking back only to prod straight to Perisic in the box and his low right-foot shot glided past Hennessey.
Brooks halved the deficit with his first international goal on 77 minutes.
He teed up from outside the box and the powerful effort clipped Domagoj Vida’s head to beat the flat-footed Livakovic.
Liverpool winger Harry Wilson had the standout chance to bring the teams level late on but his 88th minute back-post header flew over the crossbar.AFP