Kramaric double rescues Croatia and new coach

KIEV • Striker Andrej Kramaric struck two superb second-half goals to grab second spot in Group I for Croatia and a place in the European play-offs, as they beat Ukraine 2-0 in their final World Cup qualifier in Kiev on Monday.

Having sacked manager Ante Cacic and replaced him with Zlatko Dalic after a disappointing 1-1 draw with Finland on Friday, the Croats still looked shaky, winning two corners in the first two minutes but doing little else in the opening half.

Needing a win to grab second place in the group, the home side took control but wasted two great chances around the half-hour mark, with Taras Stepanenko driving a powerful shot outside the post and Yevhen Konoplyanka heading just wide moments later.

The first half finished goal-less and there was little to suggest that Croatia were capable of breaking the deadlock until Kramaric's first effort on target gave them the lead.

With just four points from their last four games amid some poor performances, the goal did little to settle their nerves as the hosts pressed forward.

But Kramaric scored again in the 70th minute, to the obvious relief of his team-mates.

With Iceland coasting to a 2-0 victory over Kosovo to win the group on 22 points, Croatia took second place on 20 with the Ukrainians finishing third on 17.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2017, with the headline 'Kramaric double rescues Croatia and new coach'. Print Edition | Subscribe