It took Croatia just six minutes to go ahead, when a mistake from the Maltese defence saw Ivan Perišić tap home from Andrej Kramarić’s square ball. Both sides thought they had scored when they had the ball in the net minutes apart, only for the linesman to rule them both out for offside. However, it wasn’t long before it was two for Croatia as a Luka Modrić free kick was nodded home by Duje Ćaleta-Car for the centre-half’s first international goal. Malta were handed a free pass back into the game just after the half-hour mark, when a lovely cross from Jurgen Degabriele saw Marcelo Brozović hook the ball into his own net. It was only the fourth goal that the Croatians had conceded in nine WCQs.
A devastating counterattack from Croatia restored their two-goal cushion, as Kramarić made a brilliant run down the right, then passed to Mario Pašalić to tap home. Just before HT, Modrić capitalised on poor Maltese defending to grab the visitors’ fourth. Within two minutes of the restart, Lovro Majer capped off his first start for his country by slotting home from six yards. Minutes later, more woeful defending led to Kramarić grabbing a deserved goal and Croatia’s sixth, as he capitalised on a wayward pass and placed the ball into the gaping net. Croatia’s seventh and final goal came in the 64th minute, as Majer latched onto a Marko Livaja pass to get his second of the night.
Zlatko Dalić’s men came into the final round of WCQs knowing they needed to win both of their games to top the group and secure an automatic place at the World Cup. The ‘Vatreni’ now face their larger challenge as they play Russia in Split on Sunday after seeing off Malta, who will try to stay ahead of Cyprus and off the bottom spot.
Leave a Reply