Czech Republic salvaged a last-gasp 2-2 draw with Croatia in their Euro 2016 Group D clash, but the match was marred by late scenes of fan trouble.
The Croats were unchanged from the team that beat Turkey 1-0 last week, with Darijo Srna named at right-back, just a few days after the passing of his father, and Vedran Corluka in the middle of defence, despite taking a gash to his head against the Crescent-Stars, while Czech Republic responded to their 1-0 defeat to Spain by bringing in Jiri Skalak and David Lafata for Theodor Gebre Selassie and Tomas Necid.
The Croats helped themselves to 13 shots at Petr Cech’s goal before half-time, in stark contrast to the zero attempted by Czech Republic, as Ante Cacic’s men enjoyed total domination against their opponents.
The onslaught began with Perisic dropping a perfectly-weighted ball across Cech’s goal for Mario Mandzukic to finish off after the Inter man raced clear down the left, but the former Atletico Madrid striker missed it by a fraction.
Ivan Rakitic, arguably Croatia’s man of the match, was then released by a give-and-go down the right, and he drove a low shot at Cech, which the Arsenal man saved with his legs.
It all got too much for Czech Republic with eight first-half minutes remaining as Perisic escaped down the left and reached the edge of the Czech box, before he created a yard of space for himself inside and angled a finish across Cech and into the back of the goalkeeper’s net.
There was still time for a second Croatian goal when an unmarked Domagol Vida met another threatening Srna delivery, but he could only shin the corner wide of the post as Corluka lurked behind him, donning yet another head bandage.
The Czechs improved after the break, yet Rakitic was away in the clear when he chased a ball through and only had Cech to beat. The midfielder then chipped a delicate finish over the goalkeeper for 2-0 Croatia and seemingly game over.
The goal was quickly followed by Luka Modric being replaced by his Real Madrid clubmate Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic picking out Rakitic with a pinpoint through ball, the Barca man then squaring it for Mandzukic, who couldn’t keep his first-time finish down.
The chances kept interspersing increasing Czech momentum, and a brilliant Croatian counterattack saw Rakitic lay off Brozovic, who turned his marker on a sixpence in the designated hosts’ box, but his shot was crucially blocked wide of Cech’s goal.
From then on, the Czechs grew at an unstoppable rate, their substitutes proving to be inspired as Milan Skoda beat his marker in the box from a cross and powered a header past Subasic.
The ending of the match was then sadly overshadowed by flares being thrown onto the pitch near Cech’s goal, apparently by Croatia fans, with one catching Brozovic and a member of Stade Geoffroy-Guichard’s security personnel.
Those scenes ultimately turned into ones of jubilation for those of a Czech disposition as Tomas Necid smashed a penalty home for a last-ditch equaliser after Domagoj Vida foolishly flung his arm in the air from a cross into the penalty area.
Czech Republic 2-2 Croatia
Skoda 75, Necid pen 90+3 (CZ) Perisic 37, Rakitic 59 (C)
Czech Republic: Cech; Kaderabek, Hubnik, Sivok, Limbersky; Plasil (Necid 86), Darida; Skalak (Sural 67), Rosicky, Krejci; Lafata (Skoda 67)
Croatia: Subasic; Srna, Corluka, Vida, Strinic (Vrsaljko 90+8); Badelj, Modric (Kovacic 62); Brozovic, Rakitic (Schildenfeld 90+7), Perisic; Mandzukic
Referee: Clattenburg [ENG]