BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP)Marcelo Brozovic scored in the 86th minute as Croatia finally broke down a tenacious Slovakia 1-0 to stay firmly in the hunt for a World Cup qualifying place on Saturday.
A poor Slovakia clearance at a free kick went straight to Brozovic, who hit a low volley from the edge of the penalty area.
Inflicting a first defeat on previously unbeaten Slovakia left Croatia – the 2018 World Cup runner-up – on 10 points, the same number as Europe Group H leader Russia.
Russia moved past Croatia into first place thanks to beating Cyprus 2-0 on goals by Alexander Erokhin and Rifat Zhemaletdinov. Russia and Croatia have the same goal difference but Russia has scored eight to Croatia’s five.
It was the first win for new Russia coach Valery Karpin after he started his tenure with a 0-0 draw against Croatia on Wednesday.
Slovenia overtook Slovakia for third place after Sandi Lovric’s penalty edged Malta 1-0.
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