Euro 2012: Mandzukic snatches point for Croatia
- 14 June 2012 18:52
- Posted by Mark Booth
Italy were unable to make their 1-0 half-time advantage count in Poznan, after Andrea Pirlo’s first-half free-kick was cancelled out by Mario Mandzukic’s 70th minute equaliser in this tense Group C encounter.
Croatia 1-1 Italy
Mario Balotelli kept his place in an unchanged Azzurri XI despite Antonio Di Natale’s goal-scoring exploits against Spain and all eyes were on the Manchester City striker as he partnered the mercurial Antonio Cassano upfront.
Cesare Prandelli's side were dominant in the first-half, creating chances for both of their frontmen who brought out the best of Stipe Pletikosa in the Croatian goal.
It was a foul on Mario Balotelli that gave Italy the free-kick that they took the lead from. Balotelli was brought down on the edge of the area, and from the left angle of the penalty box, Andrea Pirlo managed to curl the ball over the wall and into the near corner giving the goalkeeper no chance.
It's been the story of Euro 2012 so far that teams in the ascendancy in the first period have faded after the break and that's what happened again - possibly owing to the Slaven Bilic hairdryer treatment - as Croatia roared back into contention.
Mario Balotelli became isolated and was substituted after 69 minutes but Croatia scored just three minutes later, Mario Mandzukic scoring his third goal of the tournament, controlling a cross and stretching to blast in off the post past Buffon.
As the match wore on, it was Croatia who looked likeliest to find a winning goal, with Nikola Jelavic going close but the points were shared and both teams go into their final matches knowing that their fates may be out of their hands.
Italy must defeat Republic of Ireland in their final game and hope that Spain can do them a favour by beating Croatia.
City Eurowatch: Mario Balotelli
Mario started the game brightly, like a man with a point to prove after his frustrating opening match. Twice in the early exchanges Mario managed to work himself space to fire shots off at the Croatia goal.
His best moment came on the hour mark when he received the ball 30-yards out, pushed it out of his feet and drilled it just a foot over the bar.
Mario didn’t receive quite as much service in the second half as Italy looked to preserve their advantage and he was withdrawn on the 69 minute mark for Di Natale.
We'll be covering Spain's encounter with Ireland over on Twitter with live updates from the match in Gdansk, as well as posting a full report on David Silva's performance on the site shortly after full-time.