Prosinečki's improving Azerbaijan hold Croatia
Thursday, September 3, 2015
Azerbaijan 0-0 Croatia
Beaten 6-0 in the reverse fixture, Azerbaijan kept Croatia at bay in Baku as they stretched their unbeaten Group H run to three games.
Article top media content
- Croatia waste several chances in a 0-0 draw with improving Azerbaijan
- Azerbaijan lost 6-0 in the reverse fixture last October
- Robert Prosinečki's Azerbaijan keep their third successive Group H clean sheet
- Croatia remain top, Azerbaijan stay second bottom
- Next matches: Malta v Azerbaijan, Norway v Croatia (Sunday)
Azerbaijan's mini-revival under Robert Prosinečki continued as they held UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group H leaders Croatia to a goalless draw.
Former Croatia midfielder Prosinečki has now taken five points from his three competitive games in charge, and has not seen his side concede in any of them. His countrymen remain top, but a second consecutive stalemate has somewhat slowed their march to France next summer.
The optimism engendered by Azerbaijan's last two qualifying results – a 2-0 win against Malta and a goalless draw in Norway – ought to have been punctured by the visitors inside two minutes, however. Freed by Luka Modrić's defence-splitting pass, Mario Mandžukić, stretching, prodded wide of Kamran Agayev's goal with just the keeper to beat.
Azerbaijan offered little or nothing in the way of a threat as their opponents dominated possession, Ivan Perišić forcing Agayev into a smart stop close to the half-hour mark. Still, they reached the break on level terms – a considerable improvement on their showing in the reverse fixture, when they trailed 4-0 at the interval and went on to lose 6-0.
Three minutes of the second period had elapsed when Dmitri Nazarov elicited the first significant save of the night from Croatia's Danijel Subašić with a powerful shot from outside the box. Croatia responded with Perišić rattling the crossbar at the other end no fewer than 60 seconds later.
Niko Kovač's men soon began to look menacing again, delivering plenty of crosses for central striker Mandžukić, and spurned another presentable chance midway through the half. Substitute Mateo Kovačić worked some space for himself inside the area but tried to be too precise with his finish, which rolled harmlessly wide. It was not Mandžukić's night either, the tall forward poking tamely into Agayev's grasp six minutes from time – one of five attempts he had on goal.