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Bulgaria turn on the style

Published: Saturday 12 October 2002, 23.44CET
Bulgaria 2-0 Croatia
Impressive performance helps Bulgaria to the top of the group.
Published: Saturday 12 October 2002, 23.44CET

Bulgaria turn on the style

Bulgaria 2-0 Croatia
Impressive performance helps Bulgaria to the top of the group.

Two first-half goals and an impressive performance throughout gave Bulgaria a 2-0 win against Croatia in their EURO 2004™ qualifying tie in Sofia to put them in pole position in Group 8.

Fine performance
Plamen Markov's side proved that their 2-0 opening-night victory in Belgium was no fluke with an exceptional display against Otto Baric's men and thoroughly deserved the win after strikes from Stilian Petrov and Dimitar Berbatov.

Determined start
Bulgaria had started the game looking the more determined team, and they had already caused their opponents a few scares with some fine moves down the right before Petrov opened the scoring after 22 minutes.

Petrov strikes
Berbatov's pass bisected the Croatian defence allowing the Celtic FC striker to advance into the area and beat the onrushing Stipe Pletikosa with a low shot that nestled in the left-hand corner of the goal.

Boksic goes close
Croatia may have felt aggrieved to have been behind after Alen Bokšic's header flashed across the face of Zdravko Zdravkov's goal after just seven minutes, but as their confidence wilted, the home side took absolute control.

Cheeky backheel
Berbatov had already gone close on the half-hour, cheekily backheeling Martin Petrov's near-post ball at the target only for Dario Šimic to clear off the line, before he doubled the lead after 37 minutes.

Fine finish
Martin Petrov's long cross from the right went over Igor Tudor's head, allowing the Bayer 04 Leverkusen striker to chest down before prodding the ball across Pletikosa and into the net for what proved to be the game's final goal.

Improved display
After that disastrous first half, Croatia redoubled their efforts in the second period but as they tried to unpick the Bulgarian defence with a succession of quick passes, their final ball repeatedly let them down and they were to provide few threats to Zdravkov.

Chilikov unlucky
Indeed, it was Gueorgui Chilikov - a first-half substitute for Berbatov - who came closest to scoring, twice forcing Pletikosa to make good saves in the 55th minute.

Last updated: 13/10/02 1.34CET