Croatia 2 (Mandzukic 23, Olic 37)
Igor Stimac’s Croatia earned a tough 2-0 win over Serbia to provisionally leapfrog Belgium to the top of Group A in Zagreb. In a heated encounter, Bayern’s Mario Manduzkic opened the scoring midway through the first half for the hosts, before Ivica Olic doubled the advantage in the 35th minute to ensure the Croats gained all three points.
The hosts were the better of the two teams in the opening exchanges and deserved their goal in the 23rd minute after a defensive mistake by Manchester City’s Aleksandar Kolarov was capitalised upon by Olic, the striker pressed forward and squared for Mandzukic to sidefoot into the Serbian goal.
Croatia made it 2-0 with on 35 minutes, as Olic, with the simplest of finishes having been picked out with Dajiro Srna’s free kick to chest in from close range. Serbia finally sprung into life at the beginning of the second half through Kolarov, as the left back strode forward and forced a good save from Stipe Pletikosa as the visitors looked to force a way back into the encounter. But Croatia batted away the Serbian pressure and held on for an important victory.
Belgium 2 (De Bruyne 26, Hazard 62P)
Goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard led Belgium to a 2-0 win in Macedonia. The result put Belgium level with Croatia with a strong 13 points from five games. Macedonia missed several early chances and fell behind when De Bruyne was too fast for defender Aleksandar Lazovski and scored at close range in the 26th minute. Striker Goran Pandev narrowly missed a chance to equalize in the 41st when his powerful shot skimmed the crossbar. Hazard made Macedonia pay for that miss by converting a penalty in the 62nd minute.
Scotland 1 (Hanley 45)
Wales 2 (Ramsey 72, Robson-Kanu 75)
In October, Wales made a thrilling comeback to defeat Scotland 2-1 in Cardiff. On Friday, the scenario was repeated, this time in Gordon Strachan’s first competitive outing as Craig Levein’s replacement as Scotland manager. The Tartan Army must be fed up with the sight of Welsh comebacks in the closing moments of a game after World Cup lightning struck twice at Hampden Park tonight. This time, unlike last October, it was not Gareth Bale who led a magnificent fightback but Aaron Ramsey and Hal Robson-Kanu, who each scored within the space of 93 stunning second-half seconds to hand Chris Coleman’s side another 2-1 Battle of Britain victory and keep their World Cup expectations going for a little while yet. Those two took up from where Bale had left off against the Scots at Cardiff City Stadium five months earlier by hauling their team back from the brink of defeat and re-energising Welsh prospects in Group A.
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