Marcelo Brozovic (L) of Croatia vies with Connor Roberts of Wales during the UEFA Euro 2020 Group E qualifier in Osijek, Croatia, June 8, 2019. Croatia won 2-1. (Xinhua/Goran Stanzl)
OSIJEK, Croatia, June 8 (Xinhua) -- Croatia got much needed win in UEFA EURO 2020 qualifiers beating Wales 2-1 on a very hot Saturday afternoon at Gradski vrt stadium in Osijek.
Welsh football legend Ryan Giggs took his team to a training camp in Algarve, southern Portugal region, to prepare for a blistering heat and temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius that were predicted for the match in Osijek.
Kick-off time at 3pm (local time) bothered home side as well, but Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said that his only concern was three points.
Giggs tactics were clear from the start -- leaving the possession to Croatia and hoping that Gareth Bale would have a chance to use his speed and lethal left foot to score.
In the 10th minute, Bale took a quick throw-in from 40 yards and found Harry Wilson on the edge of a penalty box but Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic was in the right spot to deny Welsh striker.
The Croatian team used both wings to create scoring chances. Young Josip Brekalo was active on the right side and Ivan Perisic was a constant threat from the left and twice came close to scoring in the first 12 minutes but both of his shots went over the crossbar.
In the 17th minute, Perisic got a little lucky after receiving a long pass from Croatian skipper Luka Modric. Perisic controled the ball, faked a shot from seven yards and crossed the ball to the middle trying to find Andrej Kramaric. James Lawrence was first to the ball but he put it into his own net.
The Welsh team was close to scoring in the 42nd minute when Livakovic managed to stop Will Vaulks to score from a close range.
Home team had a great start to the second half. Mateo Kovacic scored in the 47th minute but his goal has been disallowed because Andrej Kramaric has been interfering with Welsh goalkeeper while being in an offside position.
One minute later the ball ended up in the Welsh net again and this time it was a good goal. Perisic was the one to put the ball into the net and doubled Croatia's lead. This was his seventh goal for Croatia in matches played at Gradski vrt stadium in Osijek.
This was a painful and well known result for the Welsh team. It was the third time that Wales came to Croatia and the third time that they have to travel to Osijek. Both previous times, in an international friendly and in the 2014 World Cup qualifier, Croatia beat Wales 2-0 and Giggs side faced the same outcome after 48 minutes of play.
Croatia had a full control of the events on the field until the 77th minute when the guest got to the scoreboard with a little bit of luck. David Brooks fired from the edge of the box and Livakovic went to his right but Domagoj Vida deflected the ball that ended up in the upper left corner.
Wales kept the pressure, Bale created few chances for guests to get the equalizer but Livakovic was on top of his game in his official debut for Croatia and denied all efforts from Welsh players.
Andrej Kramaric had a chance to put Croatia two goals ahead in the stoppage time but Welsh keeper Wayne Hennessey made a great save.
"I said I didn't care how we will get three points. This was big for us. It was even hard to watch and I can imagine how difficult was to play in these conditions. We conceded a goal after our mistake and it was a little bit of panic in the last 15 minutes. We had a few chances to score the third goal but it wasn't meant to be. We got the win and that is the most important," Croatian head coach Zlatko Dalic said after the match in an interview for Nova TV.
Croatia is now at the top of the Group E standings with six points from three matches. Wales holds the fourth place behind Hungary and Slovakia with three points each from two matches.
That was the last game for Croatia until September in EURO 2020 qualifying when Dalic's side will travel to Azerbaijan and Slovakia. Wales will travel to Hungary to play the next match in Budapest on June 11.