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Klasnic in dreamland as Croatia edge out Poles

SoccerNews in European Championships 16 Jun 2008

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Croatian striker Ivan Klasnic became the first kidney transplant patient to score at a World Cup or European championships when he got the only goal in Croatia's 1-0 win over Poland in their Euro 2008 Group B match here on Monday.

Victory ensured that Croatia finished with a perfect nine points in the group and set them fair for their quarter-final with Turkey in Vienna on Friday – for the Poles – who co-host the next finals with Ukraine – it means they leave for home with just a point.

It also leaves their veteran Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker without a win at a European Championships or World Cup finals.

Poland pressed early on desperately in search of an early goal to give them some hope, but it was the Croats who had the better and sharper chances.

First to rattle the cage of the nervous Poles was Danijel Pranjic, who was put clear on the left but his curling effort drifted wide of Polish 'keeper Artur Boruc's far post.

The Croats then went even closer in the 19th minute as Ivan Rakitic once again showed how dangerous a crosser of the ball he is – his deflected cross against the Germans had led to Jens Lehmann fumbling the ball and gifting the Croatians a goal – as his freekick was met by central defender Hrvoje Vejic, though his header went narrowly past the post.

Croat coach Slaven Bilic had to make a change 25 minutes into the encounter as he was forced to take off the injured Dario Knezevic and replace him with Manchester City's Vedran Corluka.

Croatia didn't let up at all as Klasnic – also the first player to appear at a major finals having had a kidney transplant – was released. But with only Boruc to beat, he found like many before him that the Celtic goalkeeper was equal to the task.

Boruc must have seen his value in the market rise enormously here during the tournament and yet again he was Poland's saviour with 10 minutes remaining from the break he once again got down to deny the Croatians, this time Pranjic.

Poland weren't helping their cause by giving the ball away and Jerko Leko was just wide with a long range low effort from outside the penalty box after the ball was lazily given to him by Polish midfielder Mariusz Lewandowski.

Boruc might as well not have had a defence as in time added on in the first-half Klasnic turned his marker and zeroed into the box but his shot was blocked by the Polish goalkeeper and Rakitic was unable to keep his follow-up down.

However, Boruc was like former English King Canute unable to keep the waves out permanently and Klasnic was to justifiably and emotionally slot home brilliantly from the left side of the box after the outstanding Pranjic pulled the ball back for him.

That seemed to spark some life from the Poles as first Marek Saganowski – himself no stranger to health problems as he was told he would never walk again after a serious motorcycle accident in the 1990's – had a firm header well saved by Vedran Runje and then Brazilian-born striker Roger Guerreiro turned brilliantly but saw his shot go wide of the post.

The Poles fire was doused really by that stage till a fine piece of individual skill by Euzebiusz Smolarek – who surprisingly hadn't started the match – saw him turn smartly and fire a curling effort just wide.

Poland were denied a point three minutes from time as Runje denied Tomasz Zahorski, running out of his goal to block him with his legs.

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