Croatia have taken a commanding 4-1 lead heading into the second leg of their World Cup qualifying playoff against Greece.
An untidy Greek defence conceded a penalty in the early stages, converted by Luka Modric, and didn’t show any improvements conceding further goals to Nikola Kalinic, Ivan Perisic and Andrej Kramaric.
A world-class header from Sokratis Papastathopoulos gave Greece a vital away goal to keep their World Cup dream alive, needing a 3-0 victory in the return leg at home to go through on away goals.
Croatia dominated majority of the contest, with 59% of the possession and nine shots on target resulting in an emphatic victory.
Croatian Coach Zlatko Dalic was pleased with his team’s performance in his second game as international manager.
“We must root out any complacency immediately and head to Greece as if the score was 0-0,” Dalic said post-game.
“The basic idea was to raid them on both flanks and the strategy worked. I am not happy with the goal we conceded but in the end it’s a very good result.”
Over in Northern Ireland, the home side went down 1-0 to Switzerland in controversial circumstances after conceding a highly-questionable penalty in the 58th minute.
The referee awarded a penalty against Corry Evans for a deliberate handball as a Xherdan Shaqiri’s shot rocketed into the back of his shoulder, gifting Ricardo Rodriguez a crucial away goal to take back to Switzerland.
Northern Ireland will have to become the first country since 2014 to win a competitive game in Switzerland to break their 32-year World Cup drought.
Switzerland enjoyed 58% of the possession, controlling most of the game however were unable to penetrate the sturdy Northern Irish defence.
The second leg will be played in Basel, Switzerland.