Croatia has beaten Malta 3-0 in their World Cup qualifier at Rujevica Stadium in Rijeka on Tuesday night.
After two matches in six days, coach Zlatko Dalić rested a number of players, including captain Luka Modrić.
Domagoj Vida was given the captain’s armband with youngsters Mislav Oršić, Dario Melnjak, and Josip Juranović given starts.
Just like the first half against Cyprus on Saturday night, Malta got numbers behind the ball and stifled any attack Croatia could muster. Croatia tried to play down the flanks but more often than not final delivery into the box was poor.
The closest the home side came was in the 14th minute when Mario Pašalić watched his header hit the crossbar.
With the match goalless after the first half, Dalić did not wait too long before making changes. In the 53rd minute he would make a triple change, bringing on Modrić, Ivan Perišić and Josip Brekalo.
The change would work just ten minutes later when Rangers left back Borna Barišić would find himself free down the left and his cross found Perišić who would make no mistake from two metres out.
Click here to see the goal.
Croatia would double their lead in the 76th minute when they were awarded a penalty after a handball in the box. Modrić stepped up and made no mistake from the spot, sending the Malta keeper the wrong way.
Brekalo would make it 3-0 in the 90th minute, tapping in after Perišić was set free and rolled it across the face of the goal.
After a mediocre first half, Dalić will be more pleased with the second half performance as Croatia looked more eager on attack.
“Congratulations to the team on the win and for going to the top of the group. The last 10 days have been tough, we got 6 points but we expected more. We started with fresh players and tired a lot but nothing worked for a period. We had to bring on players to sort the result out. Now we have to prepare for Euro. We have to be better at Euro and we will be, I am sure of it,” Dalić said after the match.
Croatia goes to the top of the group on goal difference ahead of Russia. Slovakia, who beat Russia move to third, whilst Cyprus are fourth after beating Slovenia today. Malta remains last with one point.
Croatia’s next World Cup qualifiers will be in September.