ZAGREB: Real Madrid’s Luka Modric became Croatia’s most-capped player as his side defeated Group H rivals Cyprus in their World Cup qualifier.
Midfielder Modric, who made his debut in 2006, surpassed former defender Darijo Srna’s record of 134 caps.
The 35-year-old captained his side who, despite creating 17 chances, found it difficult to break down the Cypriots.
The only goal of the game came in the 40th minute when Mario Pasalic headed in from close range.
In another Group H tie Artem Dzyuba, Russia’s World Cup hero from their hosting in 2018, scored a match-winning double against Slovenia to step up their hopes of a rturn to the funals in Qatar.
Slovenia, encouraged by their opening-match win over Croatia, gave as good as they got in the early stages of the European Group H tie but, just as the home fans were becoming frustrated, Dzyuba settled their nerves with a cool side-foot finish into the bottom corner.
The Russia captain then bustled his way through to double his team’s lead nine minutes later, although that two-goal cushion lasted merely seconds before it was halved by Josip Ilicic’s fine first-time left-foot strike.
Dzyuba’s double leaves him on 29 Russia goals – just one short of Alexandr Kerzhakov’s all-time record.
Netherlands bounced back from their disappointment against Turkey with a Group G victory over Latvia, as Stephanie Frappart became the first female to referee a men’s World Cup qualifier.
The Frenchwoman has previously taken charge of men’s European club matches.
Feyenoord’s Steven Berghuis and Sevilla’s Luuk de Jong both scored in a match the Dutch dominated.
The game was played in front of 5,000 home fans in the 55,000-capacity Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam.
The lucky few had to follow strict Covid-19 protocols to get the chance to watch the national side.
They witnessed a dominant Netherlands performance, in stark contrast to the display during the 4-2 loss in Turkey last week.
Frank de Boer’s side should have scored more than the two goals against Latvia, having created an incredible 37 chances.
Berghuis opened the scoring in the 32nd minute with a brilliant strike from the edge of the area before De Jong headed home the second after the break.
De Jong and Ajax midfielder Davy Klaassen also both headed on to the bar from close range, while Latvia goalkeeper Roberts Ozols made several brilliant saves.
Dutch keeper Tim Krul’s only save of note was from Andrejs Ciganiks, late in the game.
Frappart did not have any major contentious incidents to deal with. On Sunday, Ukranian Kateryna Monzul will become the second female referee to officiate a men’s qualifier, when she takes charge of Austria’s fixture against the Faroe Islands.
Before kick-off, the Dutch team came on to the field wearing black T-shirts featuring the words “football supports change”, in reference to the well-publicised plight of migrant workers in Qatar, hosts of the next World Cup. It followed similar messages to those promoted by the Norwegian and Germany teams.
In another Group G tie Montenegro made it six points from two games with a 4-1 win over Gibraltar.
Fatos Beqiraj tapped home the opener in the 26th minute, before Reece Styche swiftly restored parity from the spot.
It was all the Brave Falcons thereafter, though, and headers from defenders Marko Simic and Zarko Tomasevic put them in control.
Stevan Jovetic put the icing on the cake late on with a brilliant free-kick, which was his 12th goal in his last 11 appearances in World Cup qualifying.
Group G leaders Turkey ntinued their scintillating form with a 3-0 win over Norway in Malaga.
Ozan Tufan opened the scoring when he finished off a fine team move within five minutes. Caglar Soyuncu doubled Turkey’s lead when he broke free and headed in the first corner kick of the match.
Tufan’s second of the afternoon was the pick of the bunch. The versatile Fenerbahce man curled in an unstoppable effort past substitute Andre Hansen to ensure Turkey won their first two World Cup qualifiers of a campaign for the first time.