Two first-half strikes from Spurs’ midfielder Niko Kranjčar helped Croatia move two points clear at the top of Euro 2012 qualifying Group F as they beat Israel 2-1 at the Ramat Gan National Stadium.
Israel went into the game without captain Yossi Benayoun and Celtic midfielder Biram Kayal as the absence was felt as the visitors took the game by the scruff of the neck in the first 45 minutes.
The hosts were given an early warning when Ivan Rakitić fired a shot against the base of the post inside seven minutes.
Israel hit back with Etey Shechter forcing a fine finger-tip save from Vedran Runje following a run from the halfway line. The Croatia No. 1 was also equal to an effort from Yoav Ziv two minutes later.
Kranjčar struck twice in the space of five minutes. He broke the deadlock from the penalty spot after 36 minutes after Dekel Keinan was penalised for holding Josip Šimunić in the area. His second was a bit special as, after receiving a pass from Spurs teammate Luca Modric, he curled a delicious shot into the corner of the net.
The introduction of Roberto Colautti, Lior Refaelov and Eyal Golasa helped Israel gain a measure of control in the second half but a stunning effort in the last 10 minutes from Shechter proved too little, too late for Luis Fernandez’s men.
Israel travel to Greece for their next match tomorrow.
Israel: Dudu Awat (capt), Tal Ben Haim, Natcho Bebars, Gil Vermouth, Almog Cohen, Elyaniv Barda (sub: Lior Rafaelov 56), Etay Shechter, Dekel Keinan, Yoav Ziv, Elroy Cohen (sub: Eyal Golarsa 69), Tamir Cohen (sub: Roberto Colautti 51). Subs not used: Ohad Levita, Dani Bondarv, Gal Alberman, Amit Ben Shushan
Goal: Etay Shechter 81
Booked: Keinan 35, Shechter 36, Ben Haim 65, Golarsa 88
Croatia: Vedran Runje, Ivan Strinic, Josip Simunic (capt), Vedran Corluka, Danjiel Pranjic, Ivan Rakitić (sub: Ognjen Vukokevic 77), Eduardo (sub: Mario Mandzukic 57), Luca Modric, Gordon Schildenfeld, Ivica Olic (sub: Mate Bilic 72), Niko Kranjčar. Subs not used: Stipe Pletikosa, Ivo Ilicevic, Tomislav Dujmonic, Dejan Lovren
Booked: Kranjčar 59, Vukojevic 90+3