Czech Republic kept themselves alive in Euro 2016 as they fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Croatia amid crowd trouble in their Group D encounter in Saint-Etienne.
Croatia appeared to be cruising into the last 16 on Friday with goals from Ivan Perisic and Ivan Rakitic either side of half-time, but substitute Milan Skoda then pulled one back for the Czechs with 15 minutes to go before the game was brought to a halt as flares were thrown onto the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard pitch from the Croatian end.
Referee Mark Clattenburg was then briefly forced to stop play and bring the players into the middle of the pitch – as fights broke out among Croatian fans – before then awarding a late penalty to the Czechs after Domagoj Vida’s handball.
Tomas Necid stepped up to take the spot-kick in the 94th minute, firing it high into the net to secure the Czechs’ first point of the tournament and maintain their hopes of progression.
Croatia dominated the first half, with Luka Modric and Rakitic running the show in the middle of the park, but other than a couple of nervy moments from Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech, they didn’t really create any real chances until they took the lead.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the opener came from Croatia overwhelming the Czechs in the middle of the park as Milan Badelj stole the ball on halfway before it found its way to Perisic. He then charged forwards into the box before firing it low past Cech and into the far corner.
Czech Republic came out with far more intent in the second half, finally having their first shot after 53 minutes as Ladislav Krejci forced a decent save out of Danijel Subasic, but an awful defensive error soon afterwards allowed Croatia to double their lead.
There was then more drama to come as flares came onto the pitch from the Croatian end, with referee Clattenburg bringing a temporary halt to proceedings after one exploded near a steward who was attempting to clear them off the pitch.
Scuffles then broke out among the Croatian fans before play finally resumed, at this point with the clocking ticking towards the 90th minute, and Clattenburg was centre of attention again as he rightly pointed to the spot after Vida inexplicably jumped with his arm raised above his head and saw Pavel Kaderabek’s cross hit him on the hand.
Substitute Necid was the man to step up, giving Croatia goalkeeper Subasic no chance as he made it 2-2.
Czech Republic now head into their final game of the group against Turkey on Tuesday with their qualification hopes still alive, while Croatia promised a night out by boss Ante Cacic if they’d secured qualification will instead face Spain with their tournament future still in the balance.