Two quickfire Dario Marinović goals gave Croatia a 3-1 comeback win in Slovakia as they took control of their UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 play-off in Bratislava.
Peter Haľko fired Slovakia into the lead just before the break but Marinović levelled in the 23rd minute and 16 seconds later struck again. Tihomir Novak added a third for Croatia with 11 minutes remaining to leave the 2012 hosts and semi-finalists well placed for Tuesday's Dubrovnik return leg.
Haľko, who scored four times in the main round when Slovakia were only just pipped to automatic qualification by two late Azerbaijan goals, was on target again 34 seconds before half-time to raise home hopes of earning a finals debut. But Marinović turned in a Novak corner and soon notched another. Novak then increased the advantage.
The other first legs yesterday produced narrow home wins, Romania beating Serbia 2-1, Ukraine defeating Hungary by the same scoreline and the Netherlands losing 3-2 in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
All the second legs are on Tuesday, with the four winners joining the eight teams that have already booked their places in the finals in Antwerp from 28 January to 8 February: hosts Belgium, holders Spain and their fellow March main round group winners Italy, Russia, Slovenia, Portugal, Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic. The finals draw is on 4 October.
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