Mandzukic helps Croatia sink Ireland, while Spain and Italy draw - Euro 2012 Matchday 3
Today, Group C kicked off. All eyes were focused on current holders Spain and their opening round opponents Italy, Croatia and Republic of Ireland.
Everton striker Nikica Jelavic was on the scoresheet as his impressive Croatia side ran out winners against the Republic of Ireland.
Slaven Bilic’s side took an early lead as Mario Mandzukic’s header crept past Shay Given in the Republic goal.
But Giovanni Trapattoni’s men levelled when Sean St Ledger connected with Aiden McGeady’s free-kick to head in.
Jelavic capitalised with a neat finish past Given when Stephen Ward’s miskick left him clear on goal – and the Aston Villa keeper’s night got worse just after the break as another Mandzukic header bounced off the post and into the net off his forehead.
Jelavic, who scored nine times in the Barclays Premier League during the 2011/12 season, became the first player from the competition to score at Euro 2012.
Cesc Fabregas produced a quick equaliser to ensure defending champions Spain earned a draw in an exciting Group C opener against Italy.
Antonio di Natale put the Italians ahead on the hour mark, curling a good strike past Iker Casillas after Andea Pirlo’s excellent pass.
But former Arsenal man Fabregas slotted in four minutes later to level, his smart finish coming from an excellent pass from Manchester City’s David Silva.
Silva’s club team-mate Mario Balotelli produced some lively moments and should arguably have put Italy ahead early in the second half but he took too long and was tackled by Sergio Ramos after robbing the Real Madrid man of possession.
Chelsea striker Fernando Torres came on as a second half substitute and saw Gianluigi Buffon deny him with a robust tackle, before he sent a chip just over.
Here’s a look at the group C standings following today’s fixtures: