Croatia 2 Wales 1: Perisic impresses as Dalic's men return to winning ways
Ivan Perisic scored one goal and made the other as Croatia overcame Wales 2-1 in Euro 2020 qualifying in Osijek on Saturday.
Zlatko Dalic's side had lost their last Group E game against Hungary in March, but got back on track thanks to James Lawrence's first-half own goal and Perisic's 48th-minute strike following some shambolic Welsh defending.
Lawrence was unlucky to put through his own net, failing to sort his feet out when racing back towards goal, and the Anderlecht defender was one of three Wales players whose failure to clear allowed Perisic to increase the hosts' lead.
Substitute David Brooks' deflected effort 13 minutes from time gave Ryan Giggs' men hope of a comeback but they could not force an equaliser as the World Cup finalists held on for victory.
An eventful opening saw Perisic twice blaze over, either side of Harry Wilson volleying an even more presentable chance straight at Dominik Livakovic from Gareth Bale's quick-thinking long throw.
And Wales were made to pay for that miss in the 17th minute as Perisic got in behind down the left and drilled a low cross towards Andrej Kramaric that Lawrence deflected in.
Kramaric fired off-target as Croatia sought a second prior to half-time, although they were almost caught cold as Livakovic saved from Will Vaulks and then thwarted Ben Davies' rebound.
Within three minutes of the restart, Croatia doubled their lead as Wales gave the ball away and failed three times to clear their lines, allowing Perisic to rifle home.
Bale shot straight at Livakovic when well placed but the Croatia goalkeeper was completely wrong-footed when Brooks' attempt flicked off Domagoj Vida's head and in.
Brooks' weak effort in stoppage time proved the last chance for a dramatic leveller, though, as Wales were made to rue leaving themselves a mountain to climb in searing 30-degree heat.
What does it mean? Croatia back on course
Dalic's men have picked up home wins either side of that loss to Hungary and are momentarily top of the group. Wales, meanwhile, are back to earth with a bump following their opening win over Slovakia in March.
Perisic proves problematic
The Inter winger was a constant thorn in Wales' side, tormenting right-back Connor Roberts with relentlessly penetrating runs. Whenever Luka Modric picked up the ball in space in midfield, Perisic would set off at a canter, and the Real Madrid maestro would often find him.
Wales contribute to their own downfall
Lawrence's own goal was unfortunate, but the manner of the second – and so soon after half-time – will surely have irked Giggs. Having lost possession just outside their own area, Joe Allen, Lawrence and Roberts all had chances to clear before Perisic pounced.
Key Opta Facts:
- Wales have failed to win all five of their international matches versus Croatia (D1 L4), losing each of the last four in succession and conceding exactly twice in each of those defeats.
- Croatia have won their last four home matches in all competitions since drawing 0-0 with England in the Nations League in October 2018.
- Wales have now lost four of their last five away matches across all competitions (W1), as many as they had lost in their previous 14 such games (W5 D5 L4).
- Lawrence is the first player to score an own goal for Wales since Ashley Williams did so against Iceland in March 2014, 5 years and 95 days ago.
- Since the start of 2018, Perisic has scored more goals for Croatia (6) than any other player; this was his first international goal in seven matches since he last found the net against Portugal in September.
Wales travel to Hungary for their next clash on Tuesday, while Croatia are not in action again until September – a tricky trip to Slovakia.