A header by Nikica Jelavic gave Croatia a 1-0 victory over Macedonia on Friday evening and a winning start in the World Cup qualifying campaign.
Croatia, under the charge of Igor Stimac following Slaven Bilic's departure this summer, is looking to reach the sixth major tournament in seven attempts. Stimac's side is on the right road in Group A thanks to Everton FC striker Nikica Jelavic's goal midway through the second half.
Eduardo, the man Jelavic came off the bench to replace, could have put the hosts in front inside the first minute but headed Ivan Perisic's cross against a post. The guests, though, were undeterred and were denied only by Darijo Srna's goal-line clearance on the half-hour. They went closer still as half-time approached, when Macedonia captain Goran Pandev hit the bar with a powerful shot from some 25 meters.
Croatia improved in the second half and had several chances before substitute Jelavic scored in 63rd minute. Luka Modric floated a perfect cross into the penalty box for Mario Mandzukic, who headed the ball into the path of Jelavic and his strike partner prodded a glancing header past keeper Martin Bogatinov.
The visitors pressed forward int he last 15 minutes but were unable to carve out a clear-cut chance.
'It took a lot of effort to get over the recent 4-2 friendly defeat by Switzerland and we can't complain about tonight's result bearing in mind that we had several half-fit players. Corluka was battling an injury and Modric was far from his ideal shape too after a long summer layoff, hence I think we did a great job because a winning start was all that mattered', Stimac said.
Croatia plays against Belgium in Group A on Tuesday.