Soccer-Croatia sink Israel with Kranjcar double
TEL AVIV |
TEL AVIV Oct 9 (Reuters) - Two first-half goals by Niko Kranjcar fired Croatia to a 2-1 win over Israel and put them top of Group F in Euro 2012 qualifying on Saturday.
Kranjcar scored from the penalty spot in the 36th minute and added his second four minutes before the break with an excellent low shot.
Etay Shechter pulled a goal back for the hosts nine minutes from time to set up a tense finale but Croatia held firm despite late pressure.
Croatia have seven points from three games with Georgia and Greece on five. Israel have four followed by Latvia (3) and Malta (0).
The Croatians had to contend with a new-look Israel side that included a number of young players and missing captain and mainstay Yossi Benayoun, who has was ruled out through injury.
Shechter tested Croatia goalkeeper Vedran Runje with an early strike but the hosts had a let off when Ivan Rakatic struck the post with a powerful strike from 25 metres.
Croatia looked the more dangerous side as the teams began to settle down but the Israelis recovered their composure and found a way through the visitors' defences a number of times, although they could not find a way past Runje in goal.
The Croatians, who mainly exploited space on their right with Ivica Olic making forays into the area, finally got the breakthrough when defender Dekel Keinan fouled Josip Simunic to concede a penalty which Kranjcar blasted past Dudu Aouate.
He quickly struck again from close range when he latched onto a cross from the right by Luka Modric. (Editing by Justin Palmer; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com)
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