2016 European Championship Qualifying, Group Stage 2016
  • Ivan Perisic (3')
  • Ivan Rakitic (42')
  • Nikola Kalinic (81')
  • Duje Cop (89')

Croatia keep pace to qualify for Euro 2016 with win over Bulgaria

Ivan Perisic, Ivan Rakitic and Nikola Kalinic provided the goals as Croatia beat Bulgaria 3-0 to remain in the hunt for automatic qualification for Euro 2016.

Saturday's win in Zagreb ensured Croatia of at least a play-off spot in Group H, with the nation sitting two points adrift of Norway, who hold the last direct qualifying spot with one game remaining.

However, the result ended Bulgaria's outside hopes of playing in next year's tournament in France as they fell to a third successive loss.

Croatia were playing their first match under coach Ante Cacic, who replaced Niko Kovac last month, and he enjoyed the perfect start to his tenure when the hosts took a second-minute lead.

Luka Modric set up Perisic in the six-yard box and the Inter Milan winger beat Bulgaria goalkeeper Bozhidar Mitrev to score his fifth goal in eight games for his country.

In the 12th minute, Bulgaria's Aleksandar Tonev found space on the left and hit a bullet strike from 25 yards towards the far post that was saved by Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic.

However, Croatia looked more dangerous and were rewarded three minutes before the break. Kalinic fed Rakitic in the box and he struck a diagonal shot from 12 yards past a helpless Mitrev.

Bulgaria struggled to break Croatia's well-placed defence and the home side found the net again nine minutes from time when a fast counter-attack saw Kalinic tap in Perisic's cross past Mitrev.

Croatia ended the game with 10 men after substitute Duje Cop was shown a red card for a reckless tackle on Bulgaria's Strahil Popov with two minutes remaining.

However, attention will have already switched to their final qualifier in Malta on Tuesday, where they need to win and for group leaders Italy to beat Norway in Rome in order to seal second place.

Bulgaria play their last qualifier at home to Azerbaijan.