Ivan Trichkovski attempts a sliding challenge against Luka Modrić; photo: Yahoo!

Macedonia – Croatia 1:2

Ivan Trichkovski attempts a sliding challenge against Luka Modrić; photo: Yahoo!Macedonia took the initial lead through Agim Ibraimi in the 16th minute but Croatia responded with two goals to collect a come from behind victory in the third matchday of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifications.

Neither Macedonia nor Croatia could create many chances throughout the game as each side tried to control possession.  Macedonia eventually took the 1:0 lead in the 16th minute with a goal out of nowhere.  Goran Popov took a throw in, Stevica Ristikj won a header and then retrieved the ball before making a pass that found Agim Ibraimi who created some space before scoring with a right footed shot past Croatian keeper Stipe Pletikosa.  After the goal, possession went back and forth but the next chance did not come until around the 28th minute when a header by Nikica Jelavić went just over the goal following a corner kick by Ivan Rakitić.

The visitors scored the equalizer in the 33th minute from a set piece situation after a mistake by left back Goran Popov.  Rakitić once again took a corner, Popov misjudged his jump and whiffed on the ball which then reached defender Vedran Čorluka who showed good control before firing a shot past keeper Martin Bogatinov from close range.  In the 44th minute, Rakitić almost scored a goal from a free kick that came from a difficult angle, when he caught Bogatinov out of position, but Martin recovered just in time to barely get a piece of the ball and keep it out from the back of the net.  However, the game winner in the 2nd half came on a similar play but that time Rakitić beat Bogatinov.

The 2nd half started very similarly to the opening 45 minutes.  Both teams exchanged possession with a lack of scoring opportunities.  Goran Pandev actually wanted a penalty in the 50th minute when he went down inside the area but the referee waved play on.  Pandev could not believe the decision while Croatian players approached Goran to speak of their displeasure about Pandev trying to influence the official.  In the 60th minute, from another free kick that came from a difficult angle, Rakitić took it quickly and this time got the ball over the diving Bogatinov for what proved to be the game winner.  Macedonia tried to ramp up the pressure but could not create a serious chance for the remainder of the game.  With Macedonia pushing players forward, the defense became vulnerable and Croatia had several chances to extend the lead.  The best chance fell to substitute Nikola Kalinić in the 77th minute but his effort from the edge of the area, where he was left unmarked, went just narrowly wide of the left goal post.  Finally, Croatia captain Darijo Srna struck the post from a deflected free kick in what was the final play of the game in the fourth minute of stoppage time.  After Bogatinov gathered the ball following the ball bouncing off the post, the referee immediately blew his whistle to signal the end of the game.

To make matters worse, Pandev was shown a yellow card in the 90th minute for protesting to the referee, his second booking of the qualifications, so he will be suspended for the upcoming match against Serbia to be played next Tuesday.

Video of the goals:

To view the match report, click here.

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