GLASGOW: The Czech Republic took a huge step towards qualifying for the last 16 at Euro 2020 with an entertaining draw against Croatia at Hampden Park.
The Czechs opened the scoring through a controversial first-half Patrik Schick penalty, after referee Carlos del Cerro Grande checked the pitchside monitor and awarded the spot-kick for a Dejan Lovren foul on striker Schick.
Lovren, who missed Croatia’s opening-game defeat by England with a knee ligament injury, caught Schick’s nose with his elbow when the pair jumped to contest a corner.
Bayer Leverkusen forward Schick sent goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic the wrong way, finding the bottom left corner to become the first player to score three times in their first two European Championship appearances since Mario Mandzukic in 2012.
Croatia looked for an immediate response, but Ante Rebic blasted an effort high and wide from 10 yards out.
But Zlatko Dalic’s side sprung into life in the second half, with Ivan Perisic equalising minutes after the restart with a fine individual effort.
A quickly taken Andrej Kramaric free-kick released Perisic down the left wing, before he burst into the box, cut inside Vladimir Coufal and fired past Tomas Vaclik.
Inter Milan winger Perisic is the first Croatian to score in four separate major international tournaments, with goals in the 2014 World Cup, Euro 2016, 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020.
Playing each other for only the second time at a major tournament after a 2-2 draw in the group stages of Euro 2016, the game was an end-to-end encounter that lacked quality chances, with just three shots on target throughout.
It is the first time since the 2006 World Cup that Croatia have failed to win both of their opening two games of a major international tournament.
Croatia meet Scotland and the Czech Republic face England in the final round of Group D games, with both matches taking place on Tuesday.
Zlatko Dalić, Croatia coach: “At the end both teams deserved a draw. We had a bad start, we were slow and we were trying to set unnecessary pressure; we were not compact. But, after the goal, we played better. Everything is still in our hands.”
Ivan Perišić, Croatia midfielder: “We are not playing well, simply not. I don’t know the reason. We had a bad start to the match, we scored that goal later, but we have to show much more against Scotland.”
Luka Modrić, Croatia captain: “There is a bitter taste after this match, as we didn’t win. We entered the match really disorganised, but then we looked better in the second half. We scored that goal and we could have scored even more, but unfortunately we didn’t win. Now, we have to defeat Scotland to go through.”
Jaroslav Šilhavý, Czech Republic coach: “I must say I was surprised by how much possession we had in the first half. Our opponents did not press us that high and they let us play – we had some half-chances and scored from the penalty. I am sorry for the goal we conceded soon after the restart as it was caused by our loss of focus.”
Patrik Schick, Czech Republic forward: “We were 1-0 up and wanted three points, but we have to respect Croatia’s qualities. We take the point and we’re happy with it. I would like to thank our physios who helped me regain my fitness.”
Croatia: Livaković – Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Gvardiol – Modrić, Kovačić (Brozović 87) – Perišić, Kramarić (Vlašić 62), Brekalo (Ivanušec 46) – Rebić (Petković 46).
Czech Republic: Vaclík – Coufal, Kalas, Čelůstka, Boři – Holeš (Král 63), Souček – Masopust (Hložek 63), Darida (Barák 87), Jankto (Ševčík 74)- Schick (Krmenčík 74).
Referee: Del Cerro Grande (Spa).