Euro 2012: Mario Mandzukic strikes again as Croatia hold Italy

Mario Mandzukic's third goal of Euro 2012 saw Croatia come from behind to draw 1-1 with Italy in their Group C match here on Thursday.

Updated: June 15, 2012 00:44 IST
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Poznan: Mario Mandzukic's third goal of Euro 2012 saw Croatia come from behind to draw 1-1 with Italy in their Group C match here on Thursday.

Andrea Pirlo had give the Italians the lead in the first-half but Mandzukic's goal in the second-half saw the Croats take a step towards the quarter-finals as they moved onto four points after two games.

Italy, who could end up in a repeat of Euro 2004 when they didn't lose a group match but still went out at the first hurdle, are on two points and still without a win since last November.

A stunning 39th minute freekick by 2006 World Cup winning playmaker Pirlo had separated the sides at half-time.

Italy - who drew 1-1 with defending champions Spain in their opening game - would have been ahead before that but for Croatian 'keeper Stipe Pletikosa making two point blank saves from Claudio Marchisio.

The Croatians had a decent appeal for a penalty turned down by referee Howard Webb when Nikica Jelavic went down in the box under a challenge by Giorgio Chiellini.

However, a fairly listless second-half was brought to life in the 72nd minute as Chiellini fatally failed to head away Ivan Strinic's cross and it found Mario Mandzukic, who controlled the ball brilliantly and fired past Gianluigi Buffon from close range.

Italy totally dominated the first period and went in at the break a goal to the good through a sumptuous Andrea Pirlo free-kick.

But a defensive error allowed Mario Mandzukic to equalise in the final 20 minutes and keep Croatia at the top of the group on four points.

Italy will now need to beat Ireland in their final group game and hope that the result in Croatia's game against Spain is kind to them if they are to progress.

The first half was one-way traffic and the Azzurri deserved more than the single goal they registered.

Having been such a disappointment against Spain, Mario Balotelli seemed more awake here and shot wide after a neat turn on three minutes, making the most of limited space in the box.

Claudio Marchisio rifled a shot over the bar while a Balotelli shot from the edge of the area was punched clear by goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa.

Croatia were struggling to create aything of note but Nikica Jelavic was a shoelace away from turning in Darijo Srna's cross at the near post.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli had asked his team to get in behind the defence and Antonio Cassano did exactly that to meet Leonardo Bonucci's flick over the top but he screwed his effort wide.

Pletikosa came to his side's rescue on 37 minutes as he made a double save from Marchisio, who latched onto Cassano's pass, turned a sliding Srna but then couldn't find the finish to beat the goalkeeper, who spread himself ice hockey style to deny the Juventus midfielder.

Italy got the goal their dominance deserved two minutes later as Pirlo curled an exquisite free-kick over the wall and inside the post, although it seemed a generous award in the first place from English referee Howard Webb.

Cassano almost added a second before the break with a flicked header from Pirlo's corner that went just over.

Right on the stroke of half-time Croatia broke but Gianluigi Buffon comfortably stopped Mandzukic's shot.

Croatia started a bit brighter in the second period and Modric got a shot away that Buffon again gathered comfortably before sending another over the bar.

Balotelli had a crack from distance that sailed over but then out of the blue, Croatia equalised.

Ivan Strinic sent over a cross from deep and Italy centre-back Giorgio Chiellini mistimed his jump allowing Mandzukic to bring the ball down and fire home off the near post from six yards.

Substitute Riccardo Montolivo had a shot from distance for Italy that Pletikosa dealt with.

But it was the Croats who were pushing hardest for a winner in the dying stages, without creating anything of note.

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  • Football
  • Croatia
  • Alou Diarra
  • Lech Poznan
  • Italy
  • Mario Mandzukic
  • Andrea Pirlo
  • Gianluigi Buffon
  • Euro 2012
  • Euro 2012

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