Croatia continued their strong start to 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying with a comfortable 2-0 home victory over Wales.
Igor Štimac's side prevailed through goals from Mario Mandžukić and Eduardo and moved on to ten points from four Group A matches played. For Wales, by contrast, the flame of optimism lit by last Friday's win in Scotland was swiftly doused as they suffered a third defeat in four on a damp night in Osijek.
Mandžukić's opening goal after 27 minutes followed some uncertain Wales defending as Ashley Williams underhit his backpass to Lewis Price on the muddy surface and the goalkeeper, under pressure from Mandžukić, directed his kick straight at the FC Bayern München forward. The ball landed kindly at the feet of Mandžukić who duly rolled it into an empty net.
If a touch fortuitous, the goal was certainly deserved. Price had already made several saves before Mandžukić struck while at the other end all Chris Coleman's men offered was a speculative Gareth Bale effort from distance.
With Luka Modrić pulling the strings, Croatia continued to dominate in the second period and struck again after 58 minutes. Mandžukić ran clear on to a long ball but failed to beat Price and although the goalkeeper kept out Ivan Perišić's header from the ensuing corner, Eduardo turned in the loose ball.
Wales nearly found a lifeline when Andrew King tested Stipe Pletikosa with a header while Bale produced an eye-catching late slalom that ended with a low shot that Pletikosa saved. But Croatia could equally have won by more, Price turning Eduardo's header on to the crossbar with a fine save and Wales somehow surviving the scramble that followed.
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