A fantastic Croatia has beaten Greece in the first leg of the World Cup playoff in front of over 3o,000 fans at Zagreb’s Maksimir stadium.
Led by the superb Luka Modric, three goals in a 20 minute spell in the first half has helped Croatia to a 4-1 victory over Greece in a match the home side dominated from the outset.
Only hours before kick-off Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic decided not to risk Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic who was under an injury cloud and started the match with Nikola Kalinic in his place.
In the 10th minute, Kalinic was brought down by Karnezis after the Greek keeper failed to clear. Captain Modric then made no mistake from the spot, sending Karnezis the wrong way.
Croatia doubled their lead just seven minutes later when Kalinic deftly flicked home a cross whipped in by Ivan Strinic on the left.
Greece narrowed the lead when Papastathopoulos outclimbed the Croatian defence to head home from a corner on the half-hour.
Croatia had a chance just moments later but Andrej Kramaric, left free inside the box, fired over the bar.
Croatia did not have to wait long, however, to extend their lead when Sime Vrsaljko’s tantalizing cross from the right found Ivan Perisic unmarked at the back post and the Inter Milan winger made no mistake.
Croatia made it four just after halftime when Andrej Kramaric tapped home from inside the six-yard box after a defensive error from the Greeks.
Croatia could have put the playoff beyond Greece if it had not been for Karnezis in goal. The Greek stopper pulled off a number of saves in the match.
The second leg will be played n Piraeus on Sunday, 12 November.
CROATIA 4-1 GREECE
2018 FIFA World Cup Playoff
9 November 2017
Maksimir stadium, Zagreb
GOALS: Modric (Pen) ’12, Kalinic ’19, Papastathopoulos ’30, Perisic ’32, Kramaric ’48
CROATIA: Subasic; Strinic, Vida, Lovren, Vrsaljko; Rakitic, Modric (Pasalic ’88); Kramaric (Vlasic ’82), Brozovic Perisic; Kalinic (Rebic ’75)
GREECE: Karnezis; Maniatis, Tzavellas, Papadopoulous, Papastathopoulos, Samaris, Tziolis, Stafylidis, Fortounis, Zeca, Mitroglou