Croatia kept themselves just a point behind leaders Greece in Euro 2012
qualifying Group F with a routine win in Malta tonight.
Ognjen Vukojevic and Milan Badelj gave the visitors a two-goal lead in little
over half an hour.
Michael Mifsud's goal briefly threatened a shock comeback but, after Croatia
had twice hit the woodwork, defender Dejan Lovren made the game safe.
Darijo Srna's early free-kick forced a good diving save from home keeper Andrew
Hogg, who was always likeliest to be among the busiest players on show.
He fielded Ivan Perisic's shot moments later before Ryan Fenech's free-kick at
the other end was held by Stipe Pletikosa.
Srna tested Hogg again before Vukojevic opened the scoring, converting Ivan
Strincic's cross with 12 minutes on the clock.
Hogg saved from Perisic and Malta's Clayton Failla shot wide, before Srna sent
Badelj through on goal to double Croatia's lead from 12 yards just after the
The group minnows pulled a goal back against the run of play, though, when
Roderick Briffa fed the ball into the box and Valletta striker Mifsud slammed it
past Pletikosa to make it 2-1 six minutes before the break.
Croatia's start to the second half suggested that lapse had earned them a
rocket from coach Slaven Bilic during the interval, as first Nikola Kalinic
forced a save from Hogg and then Mario Mandzukic headed Srna's cross against the
Failla shot wide before the crossbar again came to Hogg's rescue, with Strincic
this time the man frustrated.
The third goal arrived in the 68th minute, though, when Badelj crossed from the
left and Lovren headed low past Hogg.
Mandzukic and Kalinic shot wide in the closing staged and Ivan Woods did
likewise for the hosts, but there was no further threat to either keeper.