A second-half penalty from Ivan Rakitic was enough to clinch a 1-0 victory for Croatia over Mexico at the AT&T Stadium on Tuesday.
Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic was the hero for the Croatian side without a number of their star players, as they ran away with a 1-0 win over Mexico in Texas, USA, on Tuesday night.
Coming into the game on the back of a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Peru last week, the Blazers were missing key members like Luka Modric, Nikola Kalinic, to name a few. And they were off to a slow start against a much-changed Mexico side from their 3-0 win over Iceland, with the likes of Javier Hernandez, Guillermo Ochoa and Carlos Vela all starting.
Andrej Kramaric came close to scoring as early as the 12th minute for Croatia, but he steered his effort wide to see the opportunity go begging. Soon after, Mexico were dealt a blow when defender Nestor Araujo was stretchered off in the 16th minute with a knee injury.
The best chance of the first period fell to Real Madrid midfielder Mateo Kovacic five minutes from half-time, but his looping volley was saved by Mexico’s goalkeeper Ochoa.
El Tri boss Juan Carlos Osorio rung in the changes at half-time, bringing in Miguel Layun, who was the hero for Mexico against Iceland, along with a few more alterations, in the process switching to a 4-3-3 formation, after having started out with a 3-4-3.
Mexico went close two times in the opening minutes of the second half, with Carlos Vela blazing over the bar from a long ball from the defence and Javier Hernandez forcing a tricky save from Croatia shot-stopper Lovre Kalinic with an outswinging cross into the area.
However, Layun would turn from hero to villain in a moment of madness as he produced a rash challenge inside the area, bringing down fellow substitute Tin Jedvaj near the hour mark. Rakitic stepped up to take the penalty and made no mistake from the spot to hand Croatia the lead.
Mexico struggled to muster up a comeback for the rest of the second period and the final nail in the coffin came, when they were denied a penalty appeal for hand ball just before full-time from a dangerous Hirving Lozano cross, as Croatia held on to their slender lead.