Croatia crush Azerbaijan to maintain perfect Euro 2016 qualifying record
Ivan Perisic scored a first-half brace as Croatia made it three wins out of three as they claimed a comfortable 6-0 victory over Azerbaijan in their Euro 2016 qualifying match at Gradski vrt.
Andrej Kramaric opened the scoring for the hosts before substitute Perisic headed home his double and Marcelo Brozovic made it 4-0 at the break. Luka Modric powered home a 56th-minute penalty and an own goal from Rashad Farhad Sadygov made it six in Osijek on Monday night.
The win means maximum points for Group H leaders Croatia, level on points with second-placed Italy, while their opponents are still looking for their first points.
The home side started strongly and Ivan Rakitic almost handed them the lead after eight minutes as he picked up Mateo Kovacic's cross, but his header sailed over the crossbar from 12 yards out.
It did not take Croatia long to make the early pressure pay off and three minutes later Kramaric opened the scoring for Niko Kovac's side with his second goal for the national team.
The 23-year-old Rijeka striker, making just his third appearance for his country, latched onto Darijo Srna's cross at the near post and made no mistake as he blasted home for a brilliant close-range finish.
Danijel Pranjic hit the woodwork as the hosts searched for a second but it took the visitors until midway through the first half before they had a slight chance at goal, before Rauf Aliyev sent his effort from the centre of the 18-yard box wide of the right post.
Kovac brought on Ivan Perisic for the injured Mateo Kovacic and the Wolfsburg winger netted his side's second 10 minutes after his introduction as he timed his run perfectly to head home from Ivan Rakitic's free-kick.
The home side were not done yet and Pranjic picked out the unmarked Perisic on the stroke of half-time, who nodded home his second and - two minutes into stoppage-time - Brozovic slotted into the bottom-left corner after picking up Modric's great ball in the area to make it 4-0.
It did not take Croatia long to dominate proceedings as the second half got underway and Swiss referee Stephan Studer awarded them a penalty 10 minutes in after Elnur Allahverdiev raised his studs to Darijo Srna in the box.
Modric stepped up to take the spot kick and powered the ball into the bottom left of the Azerbaijan goal for their fifth.
Moments later Dimitrij Nazarov had the chance to pull one back for the visitors but his drilled long-range effort from the left channel sailed wide and it was unfortunate that captain Sadygov sent Perisic's cross into his own net just after the hour mark.
The away side tried to break down the Croatia defence as the match wore on but could not find a way through.