Malta suffered a 3-0 defeat to Croatia in a EURO 2012 qualifier at the Stadion Maksimir in Zagreb on Wednesday. A result which enables Slaven Bili?’s side on top of Group F.
Malta, on the other hand, remain anchored at the bottom of the group without any points from four matches.
Coach John Buttigieg was forced to make three changes from the team which lost narrowly to Georgia last month as Andrei Agius and Andrew Cohen were ruled out through suspension while Carlo Mamo failed to recover from an injury. They were replaced by Massimo Grima, John Hutchinson and Daniel Bogdanovic. In goal, Andrew Hogg was preferred to Justin Haber.
The Maltese had quite an encouraging start, sharing the exchanges with their opponents during the first fifteen minutes. However the hosts managed to take the lead on the 18th. Niko Kranj?ar beat a challenge by Massimo Grima, pulled to the right and with a diagonal shot from the edge of the area, he beat goalkeeper Andrew Hogg.
Croatia were now comfortably in control and on 31 minutes, Luka Modri? concluded a solo effort with a shot from outside the area which hit the upright.
Three minutes from the end of the first half, Croatia doubled the score thanks to another goal by Niko Kranj?ar who beat Hogg with a rising shot from just inside the area after exchanging the ball with Eduardo.
Substitute Nikola Kalini? made it 3-0 nine minutes from time when he headed the ball past Hogg following a cross by Kranj?ar from the left.
The next game for Malta is a friendly match against Switzerland at Ta’ Qali on February 9. The next EURO 2012 qualifier is against Greece on March 26 at home.
CROATIA Vedran Runje, Vedran ?orluka, Danijel Pranji?, Ivan Rakiti? (69′ Ivo Ili?evi?), Eduardo (78′ Mario Mandžuki?), Luka Modri?, Darijo Srna, Gordon Schildenfeld, Tomislav Dujmovi?, Niko Kranj?ar, Mladen Petri? (60′ Nikola Kalini?).
MALTA Andrew Hogg, Jonathan Caruana, Shaun Bajada, Gareth Sciberras (88′ Paul Fenech), John Hutchinson, Massimo Grima, Roderick Briffa, Michael Mifsud, Daniel Bogdanovic (82′ Kevin sammut), Andre Schembri (70′ Ryan Fenech), Jamie Pace.
Referee: Duarte Gomes (POR)
Assistant referees: Tiago Trigo (POR), Venâncio Tomé (POR)
Fourth official: Carlos Xistra (POR)