News ID: 204078
Published: 0301 GMT November 10, 2017

Croatia cruises, Switzerland earns away win in World Cup qualifiers

Croatia cruises, Switzerland earns away win in World Cup qualifiers
Ricardo Rodriguez of Switzerland scores his side’s first goal during the first leg of 2018 World Cup qualifier playoff against Northern Ireland at Belfast’s Windsor Park on November 9, 2017.

Croatia and Switzerland stepped closer toward earning qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia after first-leg victories in their two-legged European zone playoff ties on Thursday evening.

Croatia eased to a comfortable 4-1 victory at home to Greece, while Switzerland scored a second-half penalty to earn a valuable 1-0 win in Northern Ireland, reported.

The performance of the evening came at the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, as Croatia scored three times in the first half to ease past Greece. Captain Luka Modric opened the scoring from the penalty spot on 13 minutes before Nikola Kalinic doubled the home side’s advantage with a neat finish six minutes later.

The Greeks replied on the half-hour mark with a header from captain Sokratis Papastathopoulos, but Ivan Perisic made sure the Croats had a two-goal lead at the break after heading home Sime Vrsaljko's fine cross three minutes later.

Andrej Kramaric then found the scoresheet shortly after the break to ensure Croatia takes a comfortable lead to the decisive away leg in Piraeus on Sunday.

Thursday’s other contest saw Switzerland win a tightly-contested opening leg affair against Northern Ireland in Belfast.

A goalless first half saw the visitor create the best opportunities, with Haris Seferovic forcing a good save from Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern.

The decisive moment of the match came just before the hour mark, as Switzerland was awarded a penalty after Corry Evans was adjudged to have handled the ball in the Northern Ireland penalty area.

Ricardo Rodriguez stepped up to convert the spot kick for his third goal in Russia 2018 qualifying and the visitor’s first-ever win at Windsor Park.

Both sides now turn their attentions to the decisive second leg in Basel on Sunday, with Northern Ireland needing to overcome a one-goal aggregate deficit away from home.

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