International Friendlies
Northern Ireland0Croatia3

Northern Ireland 0-3 Croatia

Tin Jedjav challenges Niall McGinn who captained Northern Ireland on the occasion of his 50th cap
Tin Jedvaj challenges Niall McGinn, who captained Northern Ireland on the occasion of his 50th cap

Northern Ireland suffered a first defeat in 11 home games as Mario Mandzukic, Duje Cop and Andrej Kramaric goals gave Croatia a 3-0 friendly win.

Mandzukic poked home a scrappy goal after goalkeeper Alan Mannus pushed out an angled shot into the six-yard box and the home defenders failed to clear.

An experimental home side went further behind when Cop stabbed in from two yards out after being left unmarked.

Kramaric scored with a stunning 25-yard shot into the top corner.

The result ended Northern Ireland's run of six friendly matches unbeaten.

The hosts had made Windsor Park something of a fortress in recent years, winning eight and drawing two of their last 10 fixtures at home, conceding only three goals.

Their last reverse in Belfast was in September 2013, when they lost 4-2 to Portugal in a World Cup qualifier, before work began on their newly reconstructed National Stadium.

O'Neill uses game to experiment

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Michael O'Neill's side suffered a first home defeat in three years

Before the match, manager Michael O'Neill was keen to play down the importance of the game, indicating that it offered an opportunity to give some of the players on the periphery of his squad a chance to impress.

The inclusion of Rochdale midfielder Matthew Lund for his first cap was one of six changes from the starting line-up which brushed aside Azerbaijan 4-0 in Friday's World Cup qualifier, with Ross County forward Liam Boyce being handed a first start.

Aberdeen winger Niall McGinn was made captain for the night as he won his 50th cap but the home side were unable to make any significant impact in their 13th and final game of a memorable year, which included reaching the last 16 of Euro 2016.

Northern Ireland will be keen to put this result behind them quickly as they turn their attention to another World Cup qualifier against Norway on 26 March.

O'Neill's side lie second in Group C, with two wins, one draw and one defeat from their first four matches.

Croatia in control

Croatia, who also made the knockout stages at Euro 2016, were dominant throughout, despite being bereft of a number of key players including Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Vedran Corluka, Danijel Subasic, Mateo Kovacic and Dejan Lovren.

A ninth-minute defence-splitting pass by man-of-the-match Kramaric set up Cop, whose drive across goal ultimately ended with Juventus striker Mandzukic finding the net.

Poor marking allowed Cop the opportunity to extend his side's lead in the 34th minute with his first international goal after Matej Mitrovic had flicked on a corner.

Midway through the second half, ex-Leicester City player Kramaric unleashed a spectacular effort from outside the area past Mannus into the top left-hand corner.

Croatia will host Ukraine in their next World Cup qualifying game on 24 March as they hope to build on their promising start to the campaign. They are top of Group I thanks to three wins and a draw from four.

What they said

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill: "We are disappointed to lose but we knew it was going to be tough.

"We were stretched a bit in terms of personnel because of injuries but it was a chance to play some of the fringe players and for the younger players to show what they can do.

"Tonight's result was not really important - the focus was on winning the Azerbaijan game and we did that.

"I thought the scoreline was a little harsh on us and there were positives to take but it shows that we don't have huge depth in the squad, especially against opposition of this quality.

"This was the first time we arranged a friendly match after a competitive game and it's something that we may not do again."

Line-ups

Northern Ireland

  • 1Mannus
  • 6Hodson
  • 4McAuleySubstituted forMcGivernat 45'minutes
  • 5Evans
  • 11BruntSubstituted forMcLaughlinat 45'minutes
  • 16Norwood
  • 21MagennisSubstituted forLaffertyat 56'minutes
  • 20LundSubstituted forDavisat 45'minutes
  • 17McNair
  • 7McGinnSubstituted forPatonat 62'minutes
  • 14BoyceSubstituted forGriggat 68'minutes

Substitutes

  • 2McLaughlin
  • 8Davis
  • 9Grigg
  • 10Lafferty
  • 12Carroll
  • 13Evans
  • 15McGivern
  • 18Duffy
  • 19Paton
  • 22Flanagan

Croatia

  • 12L KalinicSubstituted forVargicat 82'minutes
  • 13Jedvaj
  • 6Mitrovic
  • 21VidaSubstituted forVrsaljkoat 60'minutes
  • 3Leovac
  • 20Bradaric
  • 19BadeljSubstituted forBrozovicat 51'minutes
  • 15RogSubstituted forPivaricat 87'minutes
  • 9Kramaric
  • 14Cop
  • 17MandzukicSubstituted forCoricat 72'minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Vargic
  • 2Vrsaljko
  • 11Brozovic
  • 18Coric
  • 22Pivaric
Referee:
Mark Clattenburg

Match Stats

Home TeamNorthern IrelandAway TeamCroatia
Possession
Home49%
Away51%
Shots
Home9
Away8
Shots on Target
Home2
Away4
Corners
Home5
Away5
Fouls
Home12
Away6

Live Text

Match ends, Northern Ireland 0, Croatia 3.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Northern Ireland 0, Croatia 3.

Foul by Ante Coric (Croatia).

Conor McLaughlin (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Attempt missed. Kyle Lafferty (Northern Ireland) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Oliver Norwood with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Northern Ireland. Conceded by Filip Bradaric.

Duje Cop (Croatia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Ryan McGivern (Northern Ireland).

Corner, Northern Ireland. Conceded by Filip Bradaric.

Attempt saved. Kyle Lafferty (Northern Ireland) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Steven Davis.

Substitution

Substitution, Croatia. Josip Pivaric replaces Marko Rog.

Attempt blocked. Oliver Norwood (Northern Ireland) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by William Grigg.

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Delay in match Filip Bradaric (Croatia) because of an injury.

Foul by Filip Bradaric (Croatia).

Oliver Norwood (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Substitution

Substitution, Croatia. Ivan Vargic replaces Lovre Kalinic.

Marin Leovac (Croatia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Paddy McNair (Northern Ireland).

Attempt missed. Duje Cop (Croatia) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left from a direct free kick.

Ante Coric (Croatia) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Jonny Evans (Northern Ireland).

Offside, Northern Ireland. Steven Davis tries a through ball, but Kyle Lafferty is caught offside.

Substitution

Substitution, Croatia. Ante Coric replaces Mario Mandzukic.

Attempt saved. Kyle Lafferty (Northern Ireland) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.

Foul by Filip Bradaric (Croatia).

Paddy McNair (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Substitution

Substitution, Northern Ireland. William Grigg replaces Liam Boyce.

Goal!

Goal! Northern Ireland 0, Croatia 3. Andrej Kramaric (Croatia) right footed shot from outside the box to the top right corner. Assisted by Duje Cop.

Substitution

Substitution, Northern Ireland. Paul Paton replaces Niall McGinn.

Attempt blocked. Kyle Lafferty (Northern Ireland) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Oliver Norwood.

Foul by Tin Jedvaj (Croatia).

Liam Boyce (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Substitution

Substitution, Croatia. Sime Vrsaljko replaces Domagoj Vida.

Attempt missed. Jonny Evans (Northern Ireland) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Oliver Norwood with a cross following a corner.

Substitution

Substitution, Northern Ireland. Kyle Lafferty replaces Josh Magennis.

Corner, Northern Ireland. Conceded by Domagoj Vida.

Attempt missed. Marcelo Brozovic (Croatia) right footed shot from the centre of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Duje Cop following a set piece situation.

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Delay in match Josh Magennis (Northern Ireland) because of an injury.

goal

Scores, Results & Fixtures

Tuesday 15th November 2016

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