Group Stage 2016
  • Luka Modric (46')
  • Andrej Kramaric (81')
  • Steve Borg (31')

Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric push Croatia by Malta in second half

Croatia kicked off their 2016 European Championship qualifying campaign with a 2-0 victory over Malta in Zagreb.

Malta did well to limit Croatia to half-chances early on, but the 30th-minute dismissal of Malta defender Steve Borg swung the Group H contest in Croatia's favour and second-half goals from Luka Modric and Andrej Kramaric secured victory for Niko Kovac's side.

Croatia's next qualifier is against Bulgaria in Sofia on October 10, while Malta host Norway at the Ta' Qali National Stadium on the same night.

Malta, who have never qualified for the Euros or the World Cup finals, were more than a match for Croatia's plethora of attack-minded players in the opening exchanges at the Stadion Maksimir.

The pivotal moment of the match came on the half-hour mark when Borg was sent off for violent conduct.

Head coach Pietro Ghedin brought on Steve Bezzina in place of Michael Mifsud to address the defensive hole caused by Borg's dismissal and the visitors kept Croatia at bay for the remainder of the first half.

Croatia, who had huffed and puffed to no avail in the opening period, took just 24 seconds to score after the restart and it was their talisman who broke the deadlock.

Modric, 29 years old on Tuesday, celebrated the milestone by notching his ninth international goal in 80 appearances by unleashing a 25-yard shot past Hogg to give his side the lead.

Kramaric, who was introduced shortly after the hour mark in place of Barcelona starlet Alen Halilovic, netted Croatia's second with nine minutes remaining to secure victory for the home side.