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Niko Kovač: ‘Malta made it difficult, second half we stepped it up’

CroatiaLocked at 0-0 at half-time, Croatia coach Niko Kovač kept his in the changing room and directed his troops to be patient and increase the tempo. It worked as Croatia made a winning start to their EURO 2016 qualifying campaign in Zagreb last night, beating a spirited Malta side 2-0…

Second half goals to birthday boy Luka Modrić and NK Rijeka’s Andrej Kramarić were enough to see Croatia open their account with 3 points. With 70% possession and a number of chances, particularly in the second half, it could have been more.

“I am satisfied with gaining the three points. Every beginning is difficult, in every competition. Malta gave us a really hard time, and in the first half we did not play as expected. The second half was better and our victory was deserved. This is a new Croatian team, full of young players, and we need some time. Nothing is achieved overnight. I congratulate my players”, said Kovač.

“When I see other results, I am even happier with this result. All the matches are very tight, and Malta will be a hard nut to crack in the following matches. We have to practice how to break this kind of defence”, added Kovač, saying that the gap between all sides at international level is now tighter than it has ever been.

“We knew that Malta has to slow down in the dying minutes, especially being a man down. Kramarić and Jelavić did a great job. Hats off to Malta, they have tried to counterattack and use their quality. They gave their best, and played in the only way they can against stronger teams. Of course, it was a bit easier after the sending off”, concluded Kovač. (photo: Drago Sopta / HNS)

CROATIA – MALTA 2:0 (0:0)
EURO 2016 qualifying round, Group H.
Maksimir Stadium, Zagreb.

Referee: Vladislav Bezborodov (Russia)

Goalscorers 1:0 – Modrić (46′), 2:0 – Kramarić (81′)

Yellow cards: Mandžukić (30′), R. Fenech (60′)

Red card: Borg (30′)

Croatia: Subašić, Milić, Lovren, Ćorluka, Srna, Modrić, Rakitić, Kovačić (46′ Jelavić), Brozović, Halilović (67′ Kramarić), Mandžukić (79′ Olić). Izbornik: N. Kovač.

Malta: Hogg, Borg, Agius, R. Fenech, C. Failla, P. Fenech (87′ Scicluna), Mifsud (34′ Bezzina), Schembri, R. Muscat (76′ Kristensen), Camilleri, Z. Muscat. Izbornik: P. Ghedin.

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