Croatia in sight of play-off berth

Croatia 3-1 Latvia
The hosts prised open the door to the play-offs by easing to a win that takes them six points clear atop the Group 5 standings.

Marcelo Brozović was instrumental for Croatia
Marcelo Brozović was instrumental for Croatia ©Keystone

Croatia eased to a 3-1 victory against Latvia and moved six points clear at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying Group 5 summit with two games to play.

First-half strikes from Tin Jedvaj, Marcelo Brozović and Stipe Perica put Nenad Gracan's team in a commanding position before Latvia forward Igors Rei reduced the deficit with nine minutes remaining. It proved too little, too late, however, as section frontrunners Croatia edged closer to a place in the play-offs.

The contest in Pula was four minutes old when full-back Jedvaj headed in captain Brozović's sumptuous centre. Perica was then felled in the area by visiting keeper Dmitrijs Grigorjevs and Brozović kept his composure from the spot. Not content with their lot, Perica made it three shortly after the half-hour, hurtling into the box and delicately lifting the ball over Grigorjevs.

Dainis Kazakevičs's visitors refused to cave in after half-time and were rewarded for their spirit on 81 minutes as substitute Rei found the net with a sublime free-kick for his second goal in qualifying.