Croatia stayed on course to reach the 2018 World Cup after two superb strikes by midfielder Marcelo Brozovic gave them a 2-0 home win over Iceland in a Group I qualifier played behind closed doors in Zagreb on Saturday.
The result left the Croatians, who had Ivan Perisic sent off in the 93rd minute, top of the group with 10 points from four games, three more than Iceland who missed several clear-cut chances at the Maksimir stadium.
Serving a crowd ban after their fans committed a series of racist offences in Euro 2016 qualifying, Croatia were fortunate not to fall behind after Johan Gudmundsson and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson came close in the opening 12 minutes.
With instructions from both benches echoing round the empty ground, Brozovic fired the home side ahead in the 15th minute with a fierce shot with his weaker left foot from 20 metres.
Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson had a shot blocked after a solo run before visiting keeper Hannes Halldorsson parried an Ivan Perisic effort shortly before halftime.
Bodvarsson squandered Iceland’s best chance on the hour, slicing his shot wide from five metres after a flowing move down the right carved open the home’s team defence.
Croatia playmaker Luka Modric, who came on as a halftime substitute for Real Madrid team mate Mateo Kovacic, saw a long-range effort parried by Halldorsson as the visitors started to run out of steam on a difficult pitch.
Brozovic sealed Croatia’s win at the start of stoppage time, hitting the bottom left corner with another fine effort from outside the penalty box which left Halldorsson clutching thin air.
Perisic received his red card for a reckless challenge in the final moments.
For all the latest Sports News, download Indian Express App nowFirst Published on: November 13, 2016 10:36 am