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Pršo puts Croatia in pole position

Wednesday, 30 March 2005

[1] Two first-half goals from Dado Pršo helped Croatia on their way to a comfortable 3-0 victory against Malta in Zagreb to move a point clear of Sweden at the top of FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 8.

On course

[2] Pršo's double quickly buried any notion of a shock result and when Igor Tudor added another after the interval the contest was effectively over. Following an impressive 4-0 win against Iceland at the weekend, it kept Zlatko Kranjcar's side well on course for next year's tournament in Germany.

Headed opener

[3] Malta were on the defensive from the Cypriot referee Costas Kapitanis's first whistle and their determined approach brought the game's first booking on 19 minutes when midfield player Gilbert Agius was cautioned. Five minutes later Pršo broke the deadlock, beating Malta goalkeeper Justin Haber to Robert Kovac's perfect free-kick and heading in.

Difficult chance

[4] The Rangers FC forward struck again on 34 minutes, Marko Babic and Niko Kranjcar combining to provide Pršo with a difficult chance that he finished neatly. The second goal was the signal for Croatia to ease up, although Tudor added the third ten minutes from time. Kranjcar's volley was brought down by Ivan Klasnic, who teed up the AC Siena player to score.

Butina brilliance

[5] Malta almost scored what would have been their second goal of the campaign four minutes later but Croatian goalkeeper Tomislav Butina foiled Etienne Barbara in a one-on-one situation to preserve his country's fourth clean sheet in five qualifying matches. Croatia next travel to Bulgaria on 4 June, while Malta visit Sweden the same day.

Croatia's Dado Pršo (right) shrugs off Kevin Sammut of Malta