Belgium battle back to draw with Croatia

11 September 2012 11:17

Belgium and Croatia battled to a 1-1 draw here on Tuesday as the Group A contenders dropped points for the first time following opening victories in World Cup 2014 qualifying last weekend.

Spirits were high in the Belgium camp after their opening 2-0 victory over Wales as they chase qualification at a major tournament for the first time since the 2002 World Cup.

Croatia meanwhile were also coming off a 1-0 home win over Macedonia as they attempt to return to the World Cup following their failure to qualify for the 2010 tournament.

The visitors silenced the home crowd after just six minutes at the King Baudouin stadium in the Belgian capital when Borussia Dortmund's Ivan Perisic cooly slotted past Thibaut Courtois for his first international goal following an excellent cross from Mario Mandzukic.

To their credit, Marc Wilmots' side reacted strongly and dominated the rest of the half, creating several good chances, with the pick of the bunch coming on 36 minutes when Christian Benteke broke behind the Croatian defence only for veteren 'keeper Stipe Pletikosa to bravely save at his feet.

The Congolese-born Benteke, who joined Aston Villa in the summer, was one of the standout performers in the Belgian attack and caused the Croatian back four all kinds of problems with his direct, physical approach.

Croatia appeared to be heading in at the break with their advantage safely protected when a Belgian corner from the right on the stroke of half time was poorly cleared by defender Ivan Strinic, and Anderlecht's Guillaume Gillet lashed home the loose ball as Pletikosa was given little chance.

"We are disappointed to only take one point," said Gillet. "It's a shame we had ten minutes of doubt at the beginning of the match.

"I am frustrated because we pushed hard but could only score one goal. We had control of the match and it's still a point against Croatia who are favourites in the group but it is nothing serious and we are still on track for Brazil".

The equaliser was no more than Wilmot's side deserved and set up the second half perfectly between the Group A hopefuls, although neither team was able to carve out a winner after the break.

Benteke was again the danger man for Belgium and had a close-range shot blocked by the Croatian defence on 74 minutes before substitute Kevin Mirallas of Everton also went close in the dying minutes but couldn't hit the target.

The result leaves both teams on four points from two matches and level with Serbia, who thrashed Wales 6-1 to leave a log jam at the top of Group A.

Belgium now travel to Belgrade and a key clash against Serbia on October 12th while Croatia are in Skopje the same night to take on Macedonia.

Source: AFP