After the fireworks, Croatia and Italy stay level
MILAN (AP) — After all the fireworks at the San Siro on Sunday, Italy and Croatia settled for a 1-1 draw and remained level atop Group H in qualifying for the European championships.
The match had to be suspended for 10 minutes late in the second half after Croatia fans threw fireworks onto the pitch. Riot police went into the stands and eventually the last 17 minutes were played. There was a shorter disruption under similar circumstances in the first half.
“I’m saddened by the fans’ behavior,” Croatia coach Niko Kovac said. “I already apologized on the pitch and I apologize again, to everyone. I’m sorry.
“I didn’t know what to do. I don’t have words now. There were kids there. This is not football. This is not a fair image of our country or our people.”
Croatia remained in top spot on goal difference from Italy, with Norway a point behind following its win in Azerbaijan.
In other groups, Wales held Belgium to a 0-0 draw in Brussels and the Netherlands crushed Latvia 6-0.
Group B remained wide open with Israel a point ahead of Wales following its 3-0 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The Netherlands victory eased pressure on coach Guus Hiddink.
The Czech Republic moved atop Group A with four wins from four by beating Iceland 2-1 in Plzen thanks to a Pavel Kaderabek header in first-half injury time and a second-half own goal by Jon Dadi Bodvarsson. Iceland, which dropped to second following its first defeat in qualifying, had taken an early lead through Ragnar Sigurdsson.
Arjen Robben and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar each scored twice while Robin van Persie and Jeffrey Bruma also found the net as the Dutch got their European Championship Group A qualifying campaign back on track. The Netherlands remained third with six points, but moved closer to second-placed Iceland.
Turkey recorded its first win in Group A by beating Kazakhstan 3-1 in Istanbul. The result lifted Turkey off the bottom of the group into fourth place. Kazakhstan is last, with just one point from four qualifiers.
Israel and Wales kept the group wide open with results Sunday which will only worsen the World Cup hangovers of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Belgium.
Gil Vermouth and Omer Damari gave Israel a comfortable halftime lead before Toni Sunjic of Bosnia was red-carded early in the second half and Eran Zahavi closed out the scoring.
Israel leads the group with nine points from three games, one point more than Wales, which also has played a game more. George Efrem scored a hat trick as Cyprus beat Andorra 5-0 to move to six points from four games.
Against a makeshift Belgian defense, Gareth Bale was the lone threat for the Welsh but could not get past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. At the other end, Eden Hazard again failed to provide the decisive thrust for his country, something he so often does for his club Chelsea.
In a bruising match, Belgium winger Dries Mertens was carried off and taken to hospital with a concussion after a clash of heads late in the match. And Belgium midfielder Marouane Fellaini appeared to be lucky not to be red carded when a clash with elbows flying left Joe Allen with a bloodied nose.
Antonio Candreva scored his first goal for Italy against the run of play in the 11th minute but Croatia leveled just four minutes later through Ivan Perisic following a mistake from Italy goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon.
Croatia had several glaring misses, while Italy struggled to carve out clear scoring opportunities.
Both remained level on 10 points, one ahead of Norway, which won 1-0 in Azerbaijan.
Malta picked up its first point with a 1-1 draw away to Bulgaria, which moved onto four points.
Andrej Galabinov gave Bulgaria the perfect start in the sixth minute but Clayton Failla leveled from the spot in the 49th after Veselin Minev fouled Jean-Paul Farrugia.