Niko Kranjcar's first-half double proved enough to send Croatia top of Group F
in the Euro 2012 qualifiers with victory over Israel in Ramat Gan.
Kranjcar got his first from the penalty spot in the 38th minute and added a
second from open play four minutes later to put the visitors in control.
Israel gave them something to worry about late on after Itay Shechter's 82nd
minute strike, but they could not find an equaliser.
Israel wasted no time in testing Croatia goalkeeper Vedran Runje with
Shechter's shot coming with only 11 seconds on the clock, but Runje was able to
tip it over.
Moments later, Gil Vermouth tried his luck from the edge of the area but fired
Croatia were struggling to create anything too dangerous early on, with Ivan
Rakitic's shot never threatening Dudu Aouate's goal as it sailed wide.
Instead it was the hosts who continued to dominate but Shechter was off-target
before Runje tipped Yoav Ziv's close-range effort over the crossbar.
Aouate did not have a save to make until the 35th minute when he pushed Ivica
Olic's shot over. Josip Simunic headed wide from the resulting corner.
But Croatia were ahead moments later when Dekel Keinan brought down Eduardo in
the area and Kranjcar made no mistake with the penalty kick.
Kranjcar's Tottenham team-mate Luka Modric then tried to get in on the action
but saw his long-range effort held by Aouate.
Vermouth failed to trouble Runje with a shot from the edge of the area, and
moments later Croatia doubled their lead when Modric teed up Kranjcar to fire
home from the centre of the area.
Aouate was now much the busier goalkeeper and had to save again from Eduardo in
first-half stoppage time.
Croatia continued to dominate in the second half, but their shooting touch had
somewhat deserted them as Kranjcar, Ivan Rakitic and Danijel Pranjic all fired
They did not register a shot on target in the second half until the 81st minute
when Pranjic's shot was held by Aouate.
And those misses came back to haunt them when Israel got a goal back with eight
minutes left, with Shechter slotting home from close range.
The hosts suddenly looked revitalised and moments later Lior Rafaelov went
close from long-range before Vermouth forced a save out of Runje.
They had one last chance by forcing a corner deep into injury time, but Bebars
Natcho's cross did not find a team-mate as Croatia hung on.