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Nations League Round up: Croatia score late to hold France 1-1

Both Croatia and France were coming off defeats in their previous matches, which made for a tense start to the game. However, with France coach Didier Deschamps making ten changes following his team’s loss to Denmark, it was no surprise that the hosts created the first real chance.

SNS | New Delhi |

Croatia denied France three points with a 1-1 draw in their UEFA Nations League Group A1 match in Split, thanks to a late penalty conversion by substitute Andrej Kramaric, while former European champions Denmark defeated Austria 2-1 and Kazakhstan defeated Slovakia 1-0 in the other matches.

Both Croatia and France were coming off defeats in their previous matches, which made for a tense start to the game. However, with France coach Didier Deschamps making ten changes following his team’s loss to Denmark, it was no surprise that the hosts created the first real chance.

The French defence was split by Mateo Kovacic’s through ball, but Ante Budimir’s first touch forced him slightly wide, and his eventual shot was straight at goalkeeper Mike Maignan. According to a report on UEFA’s official website, Les Bleus then grew into the game as the half progressed, and both Moussa Diaby and Aurelien Tchouameni forced saves from home goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic in just under a minute as the interval approached.

Croatia came out firing after the restart, but it was Les Bleus who broke the deadlock with a well-worked team goal. Wissam and Adrien Rabiot Ben Yedder exchanged passes just inside Croatia’s half, outpacing Josip Juranovic down the flank before expertly picking his spot with a cool left-footed finish.

Croatia captain Luka Modric responded by attempting to equalise on his 150th appearance for the national team, but Maignan was equal to the Real Madrid midfielder’s curling effort.

Nonetheless, just as it appeared that time was running out for Zlatko Dalic’s charges, Jonathan Clauss sent fellow substitute Kramaric tumbling in the box, and the Hoffenheim forward kept his cool to slot home the resulting spot-kick, sending Maignan the wrong way.

Both teams had chances to win it in the closing stages, but neither Antoine Griezmann nor Luka Sucic were able to find the net.

Denmark made it two wins in a row in the UEFA Nations League when Jens Stryger curled in a stunning late winner in Austria.

Following impressive victories on Matchday 1, both teams appeared to be in a confident mood during an opening period that was devoid of chances in Vienna.

That would change when Christoph Baumgartner received a raking pass from home captain David Alaba and crossed for the unmarked Sasa Kalajdzic in front of goal, with the Stuttgart forward coming agonisingly close to scoring.

Austria would rue missing that opportunity when Rasmus Kristensen’s cross from the edge of the penalty area was deflected into the path of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who swept his side home.

Yussuf Poulsen would have made it two but for a fine close-range save from debutant Patrick Pentz, and Alaba almost scored from a corner, Schmeichel tipping his vicious effort over the crossbar.

Ralf Rangnick made three changes at halftime in an attempt to increase Denmark’s threat, bringing on Marko Arnautovic for his 100th cap in order to provide more presence inside the penalty area.

The substitutions paid off when fellow substitute Michael Gregoritsch took advantage of shaky defending to set up Arnautovic, who set up Xaver Schlager for a clinical equaliser.

Denmark almost regained the lead when Christian Eriksen’s spectacular long-range effort hit the post via Pentz’s fingertips, and Arnautovic had a shot blocked three minutes later.

Jens Stryger, on the other hand, curled a superb winner beyond Pentz from distance with six minutes remaining to send Denmark three points ahead of their opponents at the top of Group A1.

Among other results, Iceland was held 1-1 by Albania, Latvia defeated Liechtenstein 1-0, Belarus held Azerbaijan 0-0, and Andorra drew 0-0 with Moldova.

(Inputs from IANS)