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Croatia beats Spain 3-2 to throw open Nations League group

November 16, 2018
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Croatia's players celebrate at the end of the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Croatia and Spain at the Maksimir stadium in Zagreb, Croatia, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Tin Jedvaj scored his second goal of the game in injury time to earn Croatia a 3-2 win over Spain on Thursday, a result that left both teams and group rival England still in the running to reach the UEFA Nations League finals.

Croatia’s win came two months after it was crushed 6-0 by Spain, its worst ever loss, in Seville.

Spain is top of League A, Group 4 with six points. England and Croatia have four points before they meet at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

The group winner advances to the Final Four tournament in June. The team that finishes bottom of the group will be relegated to League B.

With Croatia needing a victory to keep its hopes alive, the World Cup runner-up pinned Spain in its area in the final moments and Jedvaj scored on the rebound after goalkeeper David de Gea had blocked a shot.

“I am delighted and proud. I gave my best and this means a lot for us,” the 22-year-old Jedvaj, a defender who plays for German club Bayer Leverkusen, said after scoring his first international goals.

“We knew that we needed to play for a win and we managed to show that the heavy loss in Spain was just a bad day. We are improving from match to match and now we are facing England. It will be difficult.”

Croatia started strongly by applying pressure and sending long balls to forward Ivan Perisic, who forced De Gea to push his shot onto the post in the sixth minute.

Perisic intercepted a pass and set up Andrej Kramaric to open the scoring in the 54th before Dani Ceballos replied two minutes later for Spain.

Croatia went back ahead in the 69th when Jedvaj headed in a cross from Luka Modric, but Sergio Ramos leveled again for Spain with a penalty eight minutes later after Sime Vrsaljko handled.

Spain appeared to be getting close to another goal when Croatia went forward in stoppage time in one final push that culminated in Jedvaj’s last-gasp goal.

“Croatia got that little bit of fortune when both teams were desperately trying to win this match right at the end,” said Spain coach Luis Enrique, who has now lost back-to-back matches after also falling to England 3-2 last month.

“We did enough in the second half to win, but Croatia caught us well on their counters. We’re not out of this difficult group yet.”

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