LARNACA, Cyprus (AP) — Croatia and Russia stayed level at the top of Europe Group J in World Cup qualifying on Friday after the Croatians beat Cyprus 3-0 and Russia edged Slovakia 1-0 on Friday.
Luka Modric set up Ivan Perisic for the opening goal for Croatia in first-half stoppage time then young defender Josko Gvardiol and Marko Livaja extended the lead with two more goals late on. It was Croatia’s third consecutive win in World Cup qualifying and its fourth competitive game in a row without conceding a goal.
Croatia and Russia are level on 16 points, though Russia’s latest win was not as straightforward as Croatia’s. The group winner qualifies for the World Cup automatically and the second-placed team has another chance in the playoffs.
Beating Slovakia was a measure of revenge for Russia after losing to Slovakia 2-1 in March. It was decided by an uncharacteristic defensive error from Inter Milan’s Milan Skriniar, who knocked Arsen Zakharyan’s shot into his own net for the only goal.
Slovenia climbed up to third with a 4-0 win over Malta with two goals from Josip Ilicic.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.