Ten-man Iceland hang on for playoff draw versus Croatia

Fri Nov 15, 2013 6:08pm EST
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REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - Ten-man Iceland hung on for a heroic 0-0 draw in the first leg of their playoff with Croatia on Friday to keep alive their dream of reaching the World Cup finals for the first time.

Croatia had the upper hand in the opening 20 minutes but the home team dealt with the pressure comfortably before establishing their own more direct passing game as the half went on.

Iceland were then hit by a double blow when forward Kolbeinn Sigthorsson went off injured just before halftime and Olafur Skulason received a straight red card five minutes into the second period.

Skulason was dismissed for tangling with Ivan Perisic when the Croatian was through on goal.

Iceland coach Lars Lagerback praised the bravery of his team but was less than complimentary about Spanish referee Alberto Undiano.

"The players did a fantastic job but the referee didn't have his best day," Lagerback told RUV television. "I'm not satisfied.

"Someone watched the replay on TV and they said it (the red card) was very, very questionable, but it wasn't just that. In many situations the referee didn't know if he should blow or not.

"To defend for almost 45 minutes with one less man on the pitch ... I can't describe in words what these players have done," added Lagerback.

Croatia went close early on through Luka Modric but Sigthorsson and strike partner Alfred Finnbogason also spurned excellent chances for Iceland in the first 10 minutes.   Continued...

Eduardo of Croatia (R) challenges Kari Arnason of Iceland during their 2014 World Cup playoff soccer match in Reyjkavik November 15, 2013. REUTERS/Sigtryggur Johannsson