First-half goals from Mario Mandžukić and Ivica Olić earned Croatia the FIFA World Cup qualifying spoils against Serbia in Zagreb in a game billed the 'match of the decade' in the local media.
There were 35,000 home fans at the Stadion Maksimir for the first ever meeting between these Balkan neighbours and they got the result they wanted as the hosts' clinical finishing brought a 2-0 victory. Mandžukić made the most of an Aleksandar Kolarov error midway through the first half and Olić doubled the lead before the break. Serbia could not conjure a reply and now trail their opponents and Group A leaders by nine points.
"We gave our best in this fantastic atmosphere," said Mateo Kovačić. "We managed to win and are incredibly happy now. It's time to celebrate." The 18-year-old FC Internazionale Milano midfielder starred on his debut, playing 90 minutes of a tense encounter. He was busy early on as the ball pinged around the middle of the pitch before a misplaced Kolarov pass let Croatia in.
Ivan Rakitić seized upon it, feeding Olić on the right and his pass to the far post picked out Mandžukić; the FC Bayern München striker found the net from close range. Fourteen minutes later the home side had a two-goal cushion as Olić peeled off marker Branislav Ivanović to meet Darijo Srna's deep diagonal cross from the right with his chest, bundling it in.
Srna had begun the evening with a short ceremony for him, Josip Šimunić and Stipe Pletikosa to recognise the trio reaching 100 caps last month. Serbia could do nothing to spoil the celebrations in the second half, Zoran Tošić and Filip Djordjević, a ninth-minute replacement for Marko Šćepović, missing opportunities to reduce the deficit.