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Ireland lose to Croatia,a given

Croatia dealt a major blow to Ireland’s hopes of reaching the Euro quarter-finals beating them 3-1 in their Group C opener in Poznan,with Mario Mandzukic scoring a double

Croatia dealt a major blow to Ireland’s hopes of reaching the Euro quarter-finals beating them 3-1 in their Group C opener in Poznan,with Mario Mandzukic scoring a double.

Keenly aware that on the road ahead lie heavyweights Italy and defending European champions Spain,both Ireland and Croatia had been clear that they needed a convincing start to the tournament on Sunday. Ireland’s goal scorer Sean St Ledger was dejected at the final whistle.

“It was a poor performance by our standards and the goals we conceded were sloppy,” said St Ledger,who hadn’t scored all season for his club Leicester City. “I’m happy I scored but disappointed to have lost this game as we had targetted this one,given the two other games that lie ahead.

“Still we showed plenty of spirit towards the end and we can still hope to go through to the last eight.”

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Just three minutes in,Wolfsburg striker Mandzukic moved into position for a cross from captain Darijo Srna,stumbling briefly before steadying himself to beat Irish goalkeeper Shay Given with a powerful header.

Veteran Given — Ireland’s most capped player with 123 — appeared uncomfortable as he was caught off guard,conceding his country’s first first half goal in 15 matches.

The 36-year-old Aston Villa keeper had been a doubt because of a knee injury but after being able to train fully on Friday was cleared to play.

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Croatia’s ecstatic fans let off flares to celebrate Mandzukic’s goal,and did so again to mark the ensuing strikes despite appeals from the announcer,meaning the team looks set to be the latest to be fined by UEFA for the behaviour of its supporters.

First published on: 12-06-2012 at 00:59 IST
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