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Lovren strike sends Croatia into quarter-finals

Croatia 1-0 Austria
Davor Lovren, brother of Liverpool FC's Dejan, scored the only goal of this Group A game as Croatia sealed early qualification for the quarter-finals.

Croatia's Davor Lovren (C) wheels away in celebration
Croatia's Davor Lovren (C) wheels away in celebration ©LAP.bg

Croatia qualify for the last eight with a Group A game to spare
Dario Bašić's side have not conceded a goal for 444 minutes in this season's competition
Davor Lovren lands the decisive blow in the second half, scoring on the rebound
Next matches: Austria v Bulgaria, Croatia v Spain (Tuesday)

Davor Lovren's 52nd-minute goal earned Croatia their second victory in UEFA European Under-17 Championship Group A and a place in the quarter-finals.

The opening exchanges were anything but cautious on another sunny day in Sozopol. Both sides looked to switch play from back to front quickly, with striker Patrick Schmidt, Austria's one change from the 1-1 draw with Spain, having a shot saved by Adrian Šemper after darting on to one such ball forward.

Playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Croatia's attacking midfielders Lovren – brother of Liverpool FC defender Dejan – captain Nikola Moro and Josip Brekalo were full of vim and vigour, yet for all their endeavour they gave Fabian Ehmann little cause for alarm in the first period. Indeed, it was centre-back Vinko Soldo who was first to test the reflexes of the Austria No1 with an effort the keeper did well to turn away.

Of greater concern for Croatia's 29-year-old coach Dario Bašić during the opening 40 minutes was a left-arm injury to defender Martin Erlić, who was replaced by Marko Gjira after walking gingerly from the field.

Gijira crafted the first opportunity after the interval, delivering a left-wing cross that Lovren hooked over the bar. The winger was not so forgiving five minutes later, however. Brekalo did excellently to wriggle away from his marker and tee up Neven Djurasek. His shot was saved and Lovren, after stepping inside a challenge, slotted past Ehmann.

Their tails up, Croatia pressed for a second, Brekalo placing a shot wide on the counterattack. They come under some late pressure, Austria substitute Kevin Danso striking the upright from distance, but Bašić's charges stood firm to keep their fifth successive clean sheet in this season's competition.

Dario Bašić, Croatia coach
It's wonderful to be through because we've achieved our objective after the second round of matches and now we will see what we can do in the third game. It was hard, which is what we expected. Austria are disciplined, aggressive and defensively very good. Austria are a little bit better than Bulgaria, who we played in our first game. They have better individual quality and three very good players in attack who caused problems for our defence.

It would have been nice to score earlier so things would have been easier for us. In our first match we also battled right until the end – it's hard to keep doing this – but we were the better side throughout and deserved to win.

Manfred Zsak, Austria coach
We are disappointed and sad because the loss means we probably won't advance to the quarter-finals. We were on the same level as Croatia, but we didn't take our chances – and we had enough of them.