A first half hat-trick from Juventus striker Mario Mandžukić has helped Croatia to a comfortable 6-0 win against Kosovo in their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier at the Loro Boriçi Stadium in Shkodër tonight…
Croatia, missing a string of key players, including captain Luka Modrić and Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitiić, predictably took control of the match from the start and it only took 6 minutes before they would find the back of the Kosovo net when Mandžukić slotted past the keeper from inside the box after being put through by fellow striker Andrej Kramarić.
Kosovo, playing their first competitive ‘home’ match, were spirited in the opening quarter but fell further behind in the 24th minute when Mandžukić met a Ivan Perišić cross at the near post to head past Ujkani.
Kosovo were not without their chances in the first half and troubled the Croatian defence on more than one occasion. Goalkeeper Danijel Subašić was called on to make one good save after Celina broke free into the box.
Mandžukić, who has been in a goal-scoring drought for Croatia, then completed his hat-trick in the 9 minutes later when he rose above the Kosovo defence to head home a cross from Šime Vrsaljko on the right.
Kosovo started the second spell the stronger of the two teams and looked more likely to score but it was Croatia who found the back of the next again in the 68th minute when substitute Matej Mitrović volleyed home from close range a cross from the left from Brozović. It was the Rijeka defender’s first goal in just his second appearance.
Both sides had chances to score again before Croatia made it 5-0 in the 83rd minute when Perišić put his name on the score-sheet. The Inter Milan winger was put through on goal and calmly rounded the Kosovo keeper to slot home.
Nikola Kalinić then made it 6-0 with the last kick of the game with a great strike from outside the box.
Croatia, who face Finland on Sunday in another World Cup qualifier, had 7 shots on target and almost 60% of the ball during the match and will be happy to come away with the 3 points with no further injuries.
KOSOVO 0 – 6 CROATIA
2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Loro Boriçi Stadium
GOALS: Mandžukić 6′, 24′, 35′, Mitrović 68′, Perišić 83′ Kalinić 90′
KOSOVO: Ujkani; Perdedaj, Pnishi, Pepa, Paqarada; V. Berisha, Kryeziu; B. Berisha, Zeneli, Rashica; Celina
CROATIA: Subašić; Vrsaljko, Vida, Ćorluka (Mitrović 45′) , Pivarić; Badelj, Kovačić; Brozović, Perišić; Kramarić (Rog 70′), Mandžukić (Kalinić 58′)