Croatia thump Turkey in first leg
Croatia have one foot in the 2012 European Championship finals after destroying a toothless Turkey 3-0 in their qualifying play-off first leg in Istanbul.
Turkey's Semih Senturk scored in the 122nd minute to take the game to penalties, where Croatia’s Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mladen Petric all missed from the spot to hand the opposition a dramatic victory on that occasion three years ago. It was a different story this time with Turkey unlikely to be in the finals four years after reaching the semi-finals.
Turkey manager Guus Hiddink is the only coach to have coached two countries (Netherlands, Russia) in the European Championship finals but his hopes of guiding a third team took an early hit when Olic opened the scoring, slotting home Corluka’s low cross from close range.
Turkey enjoyed the better possession from that point, but looked devoid of imagination in front of goal, with Croatia happy to soak up the pressure and hit their hosts on the counter-attack.
Turkey only scored 13 goals on their way to finishing second in Group A - 13 points adrift of runaway winners Germany - but also conceded just 11.
This time Hiddink’s men were all at sea defensively, with Darijo Srna allowed to pick out Mandzukic at the back post to double Croatia’s lead after 32 minutes.
Turkey enjoyed 62 per cent possession in the first half but failed to register a shot on goal and the home side emerged from the second half knowing they needed goals to rescue the tie considering Croatia had not lost a competitive home international for 17 years.
Tthe visitors needed just six minutes to further extend their advantage, with captain Srna delivering a delightful free-kick from the right, leaving Corluka to head home completely unmarked.
Srna continued to cause Turkey’s defence problems from set-pieces, with his fierce free-kick flicked goalwards by Josip Simunic, but Volkan Demirel got down quickly to save.
With the game won, Croatia began to spread their wings, stringing together a range of passes to create openings for Modric and Rakitic, while Olic should have scored his second but fired over after Turkey failed to clear a corner.
Croatia are strong favourites to secure their place at the finals when they host Turkey in Zagreb on Tuesday.