Jesus Navas comes off the bench to score a late winner for the holders
Croatia 0-1 Spain
Monday 18 June 2012
Spain substitute Jesus Navas scored a dramatic late winner to help the World and European Champions book their place in the knock-out stages of Euro 2012 and send Croatia out of the competition.
The game was hanging on a knife-edge after Italy had taken the lead in the other group game and both teams knew a winner would send them through.
But Spain showed all their class once again when they scored the crucial winner just two minutes from time as Navas tapped the ball home from close-range.
Croatia will feel hard done by after they had strong claims for a penalty turned down in the first half and blew a great chance to take the lead early in the second half when Ivan Rakitic had a free header inside the box but saw his effort kept out by Iker Casillas.
Spain will now await their opponents in the quarter-finals but could face England if they finish second in Group D.
The Spanish started brightly and could have opened the scoring on 13 minutes after David Silva picked out Andres Iniesta inside the box but his shot was well saved by Croatia keeper Stipe Pletikosa.
Croatia had strong claims for a penalty turned down on 28 minutes after Sergio Ramos appeared to bring down Mario Mandzukic inside the box but the referee ignored the strong pleas and waved for play to continue.
With news coming through from Poznan that Italy had taken the lead against Republic of Ireland, Croatia knew they had to throw everything at Spain and score a goal to give them any chance of staying in the competition.
Slaven Bilic urged his team to get forward and saw his side miss a golden chance to take the lead on 59 minutes.
Luka Modric produced a great piece of skill to take the ball past Ramos and raced towards the Spain penalty box. The Tottenham forward showed all his class once again when he played a fantastic cross with the outside of his foot which fell to Rakitic who was completely unmarked inside the box. His close-range effort was superbly saved by Iker Casillas diving away to his right hand side.
Spain were also determined to find a winner as they looked to finish top of Group C and Iniesta came close on 84 minutes when his low shot was well saved by Pletikosa.
The Croatia keeper came to his sides rescue once again just seconds later when he got down low to keep out a fierce drive from Cesc Fabregas.
But Spain finally booked their place in the knockout stages when they scored the crucial winner on 88 minutes.
Fabregas played the ball over the top of the Croatia defence. Iniesta took the ball down and squared for Navas who had the easy task of knocking the ball into an empty net.
1 Pletikosa, 2 Strinic, 5 Corluka, 6 Pranjic (Perisic, 66), 13 Schildenfeld, 21 Vida (Jelavic, 66), 7 Rakitic, 8 Vukojevic (Eduardo, 81), 10 Modric, 11 Srna, 17 Mandzukic
1 Casillas, 3 Pique, 15 Ramos, 17 Arbeloa, 18 Alba, 6 Iniesta, 8 Xavi, 14 Alonso, 16 Busquets, 21 Silva (Fabregas, 73), 9 Torres (Navas, 60)