Mandzukic cancels out Pirlo's opener to earn Croatia a point against Azzurri
Italy 1-1 Croatia
Thursday 14 June 2012
Croatia came from behind to draw 1-1 against Italy and stay top of Group C thanks to striker Mario Mandzukic's third goal of the tournament.
Mandzukic had already scored twice against Ireland going into this match and was his country's hero again as he fired home after the break to cancel out Andrea Pirlo's opener.
Italy started the quicker, with Mario Balotelli having two excellent chances - one that flashed wide and another hit too straight, allowing Stipe Pletikosa to make a good save.
But Croatia had plenty of possession, and one or two chances of their own, before the Italians eventually found a way through after 39 minutes.
It was tough on Pletikosa who had just made a stunning double save from Marchisio following a neat pass from Antonio Cassano. But he was wrong-footed when Pirlo curled home a wonderful free-kick from the edge of the area.
Normally you would say a keeper shouldn't be beaten at his near post; but Pirlo's effort rose and dipped over a high wall so quickly and so exquisitely that there was little the Croatian could do to keep it out.
Two Luka Modric shots worried Italy at the start of the second half, however, and the Croats - roared on by a huge travelling support - eventually equalised after 72 minutes. Ivan Strinic's deep left-footed cross was controlled well by Mandzukic at the far post and lashed home a shot for his third of the tournament already.
Referee Howard Webb had to briefly stop play while smoke from fire-crackers thrown onto the pitch by Croatian fans drifted away; but there were no more fireworks in store from either side as the match ended all square.
Italy now have just two points from two games while Croatia have four.
Buffon, Bonucci, De Rossi, Chiellini, Maggio, Marchisio, Pirlo, Thiago Motta (Montolivo 63), Giaccherini, Balotell (Di Natale 69) Cassano (Giovinco 83)
Subs not used: Sirigu, De Sanctis, Balzaretti, Abate, Barzagli, Borini, Diamanti, Nocerino.
Pletikosa, Srna, Corluka, Schildenfeld, Strinic, Perisic (Pranjic 68), Modric, Vukojevic, Rakitic, Jelavic (Eduardo 83), Mandzukic (Kranjcar 90)
Subs not used: Kelava, Subasic, Simunic, Buljat, Bradelj, Vrsaljko, Dujmovic, Kalinic,Vida