Croatia leaves it late to down Georgia

Croatia scored two late goals to rally for a hard-fought 2-1 win over Georgia in a European Championship qualifier on Friday.

Mario Mandzukic equalized in the 76th minute with a close-range shot after a perfect pass by substitute Tomislav Dujmovic. Nikola Kalinic netted the winner in the 78th with a low shot from 10 yards.

Georgia took the lead in the 17th with a close-range header by Jaba Kankava.

”This is how football works,” Kalinic said. ”You have to be patient 90 minutes. It was tough, but the whole team worked hard for this victory.”

Croatia had plenty of possession, but created relatively few chances against a well-organized Georgia defense. The only chance for Croatia in the first half came in the 26th when Luka Modric fired a volley from the edge of the penalty zone, but goalkeeper Giorgi Loria palmed the ball onto the post.

In the second half, Eduardo hit Georgia’s bar in the 58th, and Darijo Srna’s long-range free-kick hit the post.

With the win, Croatia leads Group F with 13 points. Greece has 11 before playing Malta on Saturday.

”These 3 points are worth the gold,” Srna said. ”We missed a lot of chances, but it is hard to play against a team like Georgia, which gives everything to defend.”

Lineups:

Croatia: Vedran Runje, Josip Simunic, Vedran Corluka, Danijel Pranjic, Ognjen Vukojevic (Tomislav Dujmovic, 71st), Eduardo, Luka Modric, Darijo Srna, Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Perisic (Ivan Klasnic, 71st), Nikica Jelavic (Nikola Kalinic, 46).

Georgia: Giorgi Loria, Akaki Khubutia, Kakha Kaladze, Gia Grigalava, Guram Kashia (Jano Ananidze, 79th), Jaba Kankava, David Kvirkvelia, Aleksandr Iashvili (Murtaz Daushvili, 62nd, Zurab Khizanishvili, David Siradze (Vladimir Dvalishvili, 58th).