September 9, 2019 – The Croatia national team met Azerbaijan in Baku on Monday for the 6th round of the EURO 2020 qualifications.
After a critical victory against Slovakia on Friday, Croatia came to Baku for their second crucial match in three days. Zlatko Dalic’s side faced an Azerbaijan squad led by Croatian Nikola Jurcevic. Before the match on Monday, Croatia had so far played Azerbaijan three times, registering two wins and one draw with a goal difference of 8:1.
The game on Monday was also unique for another reason – captain Luka Modric celebrated his 34th birthday.
Croatia came out playing the same attacking game coach Zlatko Dalic favored in the game against Slovakia – and by the third minute, it wasn’t hard to see that Croatia would be giving Azerbaijan’s defense no easy job. After a few attacks which resulted in no goals, the ref whistled to the penalty spot after a handball by an Azerbaijani defender. Luka stepped up to the challenge and scored for 0:1 Croatia in the 11th minute.
Azerbaijan’s keeper was brilliant in the minutes that followed – blocking chances from Perisic, Rebic and Vlasic to keep the game 0:1.
Azerbaijan had their first real chance in the 17th minute, forcing Livakovic to make a stellar save – though the ref called the player offside in the end.
Nikola Vlasic, who opened the scoring spree against Slovakia, dangerously shot from outside the penalty box, which forced the keeper to make a difficult save.
By the 26th minute, Croatia had 60 percent of the ball possession, with eight shots on goal.
Azerbaijan had an almost alarming counter-attack in the 32nd minute which was ultimately saved by Livakovic’s leg – and in the 37th minute, Azerbaijan hit over the goal.
A dance around the defense by Ante Rebic found the foot of Nikola Vlasic in the 41st, who hit another stunner from outside the penalty area, though the game remained 0:1.
A free-kick by Perisic in the 44th went just over the goal, and an offside goal by Azerbaijan ended the game 0:1 for Croatia at the half.
Azerbaijan had their first corner of the game in the 54th minute, which was cleared by Croatia’s defense. Croatia’s kept the forceful attacking game from the first half at the start, though Azerbaijan’s defense was making it more difficult for Perisic, Petkovic, Vlasic, and Rebic. Dalic’s side needed a new burst of energy to carry them through the half.
Azerbaijan picked up the pace considerably in the second half, giving Croatia’s defense more work in the first 15 minutes of it than they had all of the first. Petkovic had a chance in the 61st minute that hit just shy of the goal, and Croatia continued hunting for their second goal.
In the 66th minute, Croatia was lucky another Azerbaijan goal was called offside to keep the result in Croatia’s favor; however, that didn’t last long. In the 72nd minute, Tamkin Khalilza dribbled through Croatia’s defense to equalize for Azerbaijan 1:1.
Dalic brought young blood Brekalo on for Bartolec in the 76th minute in the hope of some momentum, though Azerbaijan kept on pressing. Orsic came on for Rebic in the 86th. Croatia’s energy continued to dwindle.
Croatia had a corner in the 89th minute, though Vida hit over. Four minutes of extra time were added, though neither team was able to score. The game ended 1:1.
Croatia’s next Euro qualifier will be the decisive match against Hungary at Poljud stadium in Split on October 10, 2019.
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