Ivan Perisic rescued a 1-1 draw for Croatia after Patrik Schick became the leading scorer in Euro 2020 with a controversial penalty.
Schick scored a decisive double, including a stunning long-range strike, in Czech Republic’s opening 2-0 Group D win over Scotland at Hampden Park and put his side in front from the spot at the same venue.
Croatia were understandably aggrieved that Dejan Lovren was penalised for seemingly accidentally catching Schick on the nose with his elbow after the VAR asked Carlos del Cerro Grande to check the pitchside monitor in the first half.
Perisic levelled early in the second period, leaving Croatia three points behind Czech Republic and two adrift of England – who play Scotland later on Friday – with one game to play against Steve Clarke’s side
A drab first half came to life when Spanish official Del Cerro contentiously pointed to the spot, leaving Lovren stunned as there did not appear to be any intent when he caught Schick as they jumped for a header from a corner.
In-form striker Schick was left with blood streaming from his nose but picked himself up to send Dominik Livakovic the wrong way with the Czech Republic’s first shot on target eight minutes before half-time.
Ante Rebic wasted a glorious chance to equalise a couple of minutes later, blazing wide of the near post from inside the penalty area after being played in by Josip Brekalo.
Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic made a double change at the break, replacing Brekalo and Rebic with Luka Ivanusec and Bruno Petkovic
The 2018 World Cup runners-up were level two minutes into the second half, Perisic cutting in from the left before drilling a powerful strike beyond Tomas Vaclik with his right foot.
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 18, 2021
Both sides showed more urgency after the break and Tomas Soucek let fly with a long-range drive that flashed past the far post.
Schick rose highest to meet a corner from the left but headed over the crossbar and Nikola Vlasic missed a great opportunity at the other end, firing over from 12 yards out.
A late Petkovic shot deflected wide after he turned sharply in the area, but neither side had the quality to conjure up a winner and the pressure is on Croatia going into their battle with Scotland.
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Croatia were toothless in the 1-0 defeat to England and looked short of ideas again until Perisic’s leveller early in the second half.
They had just two shots on target, while Schick’s penalty was the only time the Czech Republic hit the target in a poor contest.
Croatia will have to step it up when they return to Hampden to face Scotland, while the Czech Republic will only need a point against England to be assured of qualification – and they may well have enough points on the board already.
Perisic makes history
Winger Perisic made history when he scored such an important 29th goal for his country.
He is the first Croatia player to score in four major international tournaments.
Only Antoine Griezmann (10), Cristiano Ronaldo (10) and Romelu Lukaku (9) have scored more goals for a European nation at the previous four major tournaments than Perisic’s tally of eight.
Rebic fails to justify selection
There was talk of Rebic being dropped, but the Milan forward was given the nod to play as a lone striker.
He was hauled off the break, though, after spurning a clear-cut chance to equalise. Rebic only had 11 touches before being replaced.
Czech Republic come up against England at Wembley on Tuesday, with Croatia back in Glasgow to lock horns with Scotland.
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