Croatia, with recent Champions League winner Ivan Rakitić bossing the midfield, started the match the brighter of the two sides and should have gone ahead when they were awarded a penalty in the 7th minute when captain Darijo Srna was hacked down inside the box. However, Mario Mandžukić, who scored from the spot last week against Gibraltar, had his effort saved by Gigi Buffon.
Mandžukić redeemed himself just four minutes later when Croatia broke on the counter attack seconds after Italy had a goal disallowed for offside. Srna found Rakitić free on the right who found the Atletico Madrid striker with a pinpoint cross.
After dominating possession for the first 25 minutes of the match, and squandering a couple of chances, Croatia let Italy back into the match and it was Mandžukić who was in the action again, this time at the other end, when he was ruled to have handled the ball inside the box. Candreva calmly chipped home to make it 1-1. Both sides had a number of chances in the second spell to win it, but lacked decisive finishing.
CROATIA v ITALY
EURO 2016 Qualifier – Poljud Stadium, Split
GOALS: Mandžukić, Candreva
RED CARD: Srna
CROATIA: Subašić – Srna, Vida, Schildenfeld, Pranjić (72′ Vrsaljko) – Rakitić, Brozović – Perišić, Kovačić (90′ Leovac), Olić (46′ Rebić) – Mandžukić
ITALY: Buffon (46′ Sirigu)- De Silvestri (27′ De Sciglio), Bonucci, Astori, Darmian – Parolo, Pirlo, Marchisio – Candreva, Pelle, El Shaarawy
(photo credit / HNS)