Prosinecki's improving Azerbaijan hold Croatia

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Baku, September 4, AZERTAC

Azerbaijan's mini-revival under Robert Prosinecki continued as they held UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group H leaders Croatia to a goalless draw, according to UEFA.

Former Croatia midfielder Prosinecki has now taken five points from his three competitive games in charge, and has not seen his side concede in any of them. His countrymen remain top, but a second consecutive stalemate has somewhat slowed their march to France next summer.

The optimism engendered by Azerbaijan's last two qualifying results – a 2-0 win against Malta and a goalless draw in Norway – ought to have been punctured by the visitors inside two minutes, however. Freed by Luka Modric's defence-splitting pass, Mario Mandzukic, stretching, prodded wide of Kamran Agayev's goal with just the keeper to beat.

Azerbaijan offered little or nothing in the way of a threat as their opponents dominated possession, Ivan Perisic forcing Agayev into a smart stop close to the half-hour mark. Still, they reached the break on level terms – a considerable improvement on their showing in the reverse fixture, when they trailed 4-0 at the interval and went on to lose 6-0.

Three minutes of the second period had elapsed when Dmitri Nazarov elicited the first significant save of the night from Croatia's Danijel Subasic with a powerful shot from outside the box. Croatia responded with Perišić rattling the crossbar at the other end no fewer than 60 seconds later.

Niko Kovac's men soon began to look menacing again, delivering plenty of crosses for central striker Mandžukić, and spurned another presentable chance midway through the half. Substitute Mateo Kovacic worked some space for himself inside the area but tried to be too precise with his finish, which rolled harmlessly wide. It was not Mandzukic's night either, the tall forward poking tamely into Agayev's grasp six minutes from time – one of five attempts he had on goal.

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