England qualify with win over Croatia
Written By: Robert Halter
England aimed to top Group 4 of the UEFA Nations League with a win against Croatia and book a place in Portugal for the semi final next June. In the third minute, from a Fabian Delph back pass, the ball was spilled from Jordan Pickford, and a strike from Ante Rebic, was blazed over. In the eleventh minute, a through ball from the Three Lions captain, Harry Kane, cleared the way for Raheem Sterling to charge through and it took a close range block by Lovre Kalinic, to turn the ball behind for a corner which was taken by Ross Barkley and headed on from John Stones, only for the lurking Kane, being unable to convert the ball at the far left post. But on the quarter of the hour mark, from Delph’s ball down the middle, Raheem Sterling clattered into Kalinic, and the Croatian keeper dropped the ball as Kane followed up with a low strike which was cleared off the line by Tin Jedvaj, before the rebound went back to Kane, whose strike was scrambled behind from a reflex save by Kalinic. In the twenty second minute, from a corner, the Croatian captain, Luka Modric, played a short one two combination move with Andrej Kramaric, whose low strike was smothered by Pickford, who released the ball quickly with a long throw out to Marcus Rashford, who was stopped in his tracks on goal from a tackle on him by Sime Vrsaljko. On twenty five minutes, from a Barkley corner, the ball went back out the box off the head of Rebic and Dejan Lovren, before a slash at the ball from Ben Chilwell at long distance was kept out with a save to his left by Kalinic, before Domagoj Vida, headed the ball away. Croatia soon changed Vrsaljko with Antonio Milic. In the thirty eighth minute, after Kramaric withstood the challenge of Joe Gomez, nipping in at the near post, Ivan Perisic, sent a swerving strike sailing over the frame of the goal. On forty minutes, from a Chilwell delivery, a headed pass by Kane, was struck first time by Barkley, into the outside netting of the right post. Before the break, Marcelo Brozovic, played in Rebic, who skied his effort wayward over the upright. In the final first half action, Kramaric laid the ball off to Modric, whose chip was just out of reach of Perisic, at the right post. Before the re-start, Josip Brekalo replaced Rebic. In the fifty first minute, a forward pass from Rashford, was toe poked by Sterling against Kalinic. But it was Croatia that took the lead on fifty seven minutes, when Brekalo’s ball across was pulled back from Nikola Vlasic, and after twisting and turning in the area, Kramaric blasted the ball into the top left corner with a slight deflection off Eric Dier. On sixty one minutes, the Croats went close to scoring again, from Vlasic’s headed pass, as a low strike from Perisic, was driven narrowly past the far right post. The Three Lions soon replaced Barkley with Dele Alli. After Jedvaj brought down Rashford, a free kick by Chilwell was headed out from Lovren, and a low shot by Kyle Walker went into the safe keeping of Kalinic, in the sixty eighth minute. England made a double change of Jesse Lingard for Delph and also Jadon Sancho for Rashford. On seventy six minutes, a menacing cross by Alli was cut out by Jedvaj. But within two minutes, England drew level, from a long throw in by Gomez, and knock on by Stones, and then Kane drove the ball through Kalinic, for Lingard to put the ball into an empty net on the goal line. Croatia then took off Vlasic for Marko Rog. In the eighty second minute, Pickford produced a top draw save with Lingard getting the boot in behind him, to keep out Vida’s goal bound header from a Modric corner. But the tide turned as Jedvaj appended Chilwell, whose free kick flew past Dier in a packed penalty area, and with his outstretched right foot, Kane, drilled the ball into the bottom right corner in the eighty fifth minute. It was fitting that Kane was named man of the match after securing a 2-1 win for the Three Lions, which gained England top spot in the UEFA Nations League qualifying group ahead of both Spain and Croatia after the Three Lions fifth victory against Croatia.