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Croatia make class tell

Saturday, 4 September 2004

By Elvir Islamovic at the Maksimir stadium

[1] Croatia made a disciplined start to their FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 8 campaign as a Hungarian side who played with ten men for 77 minutes were seen off in Zagreb.

Red card

[2] The key early moment was the sending off of Szabolcs Huszti for leading with his arm when contesting a header with Croatia's Darijo Srna on 13 minutes. Peter Simek, who had been booked five minutes earlier for a foul on Marko Babic, was substituted shortly afterwards and Croatia took control.

Home chances

[3] Both Marko Babic and Dado Pršo had chances to give Croatia the lead. Babic almost scored from a powerfully struck free-kick which bent around the Hungary wall, but on 32 minutes it was Pršo who broke the deadlock.

Pršo strikes

[4] Balazs Molnár's clearance went only as far as the Rangers FC striker, who collected the ball before bursting past the defender deep inside the box and firing a shot past Gábor Kiraly, off the crossbar, and into the net.

Hungary respond

[5] Hungary went in behind at the break, started the second half brightly and had their best chance of the game in the 48th minute when they were awarded a free-kick wide on the right. The ball was floated in by Henrik Rósa but Zoltán Gera's close-range header was brilliantly saved by Tomislav Butina.

Vital blow

[6] At this stage the Hungary defence was coping admirably with the threat of Pršo but on 57 minutes the visitors were dealt a killer blow. Ivan Klasnic received a pass from Jurica Vranješ just outside the penalty area. He turned, lost his marker and fired a shot low and hard past the diving Kiraly into the left corner of the goal.

Croatia push forward

[7] Hungary responded immediately by bringing on Gábor Gyepes for Péter Stark. By now the visitors were being pinned back in their own half most of the time and Srna was beginning to create havoc with his crossing from the right.

Own goal

[8] With ten minutes left Vranješ passed to substitute Ivan Leko just outside the area. He crossed into the area and Gyepes turned the ball into his own net, his outstretched leg diverting the ball past the stranded Kiraly. Croatia now travel to Sweden in four days time hoping to build on their good start in Group 8, while Hungary welcome Iceland to Budapest.

Croatia's Darijo Srna (right) challenges Dénes Rósa