Croatia clinch top spot with victory in Latvia

Latvia 1-3 Croatia
Nenad Gracan's men won their final Group 5 fixture in Jelgava to guarantee top spot in the section and a play-off place.

Ante Rebić (right) scored Croatia's second from the penalty spot
Ante Rebić (right) scored Croatia's second from the penalty spot ©Ivan Klindić

Croatia secured a UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-off spot as a three goals in a 22-minute spell helped Nenad Gracan's side claim victory in Jelgava.

Croatia travelled to Latvia knowing success would clinch top spot regardless of what happens when Ukraine play Switzerland on Thursday, but the hosts failed to take advantage of a good first-half display. Dražen Bagarić’s opener (48) and Ante Rebić’s spot-kick just four minutes later put the home side immediately on the back foot after the restart. Dario Župarić secured victory (70) after Latvia reduced the deficit with Vladislavs Gutkovskis's strike (55).

Antonio Milić and Stipe Perica were denied by Latvia goalkeeper Georgijs Čižovs as the visitors traded efforts with their opponents in the first-half. Jānis Ikaunieks and Gutkovskis missed good opportunities for Latvia before Croatia took control of the game in a devastating second-half spell as the hosts found themselves 2-0 down inside four minutes.

Bagarić scored after good work by Rebić who doubled the lead from the penalty-spot. Dario Župarić finished from close-range following another assist from Rebić, 15 minutes after what turned out to be a consolation goal for Latvia through Gutkovskis.