SAINT-ETIENNE: Further crowd trouble marred a dramatic 2-2 draw between Czech Republic and Croatia in Group D of the European Championship finals at Saint-Etienne.
A steward was hurt after being struck by one of a number of flares which rained from Croatia fans behind one goal four minutes before the end of the match which was held up for five minutes by English referee Mark Clattenburg.
Internazionale’s Ivan Perisic and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic had given dominant Croatia a 2-0 lead but the Czechs hit back through a header from Milan Skoda before Tomas Necid converted a penalty awarded for handball three minutes into stoppage time.
Croatia’s early dominance was imposed by midfielders Rakitic and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric. However Modric was injured early in the second half, substituted in the 62nd minute and is doubtful for the Croats’ all-important concluding group tie against Spain.
The Croatia federation is certain to be punished by European federarion UEFA which has opened an imvestigation into the flares which appeared towards the left of Czech keeper Petr Cech’s penalty area. Stewards and players went to the corner to try to calm the situation when one of the security personnel was struck by a firework. He was subsequently escorted away by colleagues.
In the time added on for the incident the Czechs completed their recovery to snatch a point when Domagoj Vida handled in the area and Necid converted the kick.
Croatia have already been charged for a pitch invasion and letting off fireworks during their opening game against Turkey.
Croatia coach Ante Cacic said: “The Czechs are a quality team. We played one of the best games since I’ve been coach and we had a lot of chances. We did everything perfectly until the interruption and then we lost concentration.”
Opposite number Pavel Vrba said: “It wasn’t going well but we’ve given ourselves a spark of hope to get out of the group. What helped most was that we didn’t give up. The fans were our 12th, 13th and 14th player and pushed us on.”
A point from their final Group D game against Spain will see Croatia book their place in the last 16 while the Czech Republic would probably advance with a victory over Turkey.