Croatia kept their hopes of qualifying for the UEFA Nations League finals alive on Thursday, as a surprise brace from Tin Jedvaj gave them a stunning 3-2 over Spain.
There were no goals in the first period, although both teams showcased flashes of quality. Ivan Perisic went closest early on, as he struck the woodwork.
After the interval, the game ignited, with Andrej Kramaric's opener immediately cancelled out by Dani Ceballos' equaliser. The hosts then held off some Spain pressure to retake the lead in the 69th minute, as Jedvaj headed home Luka Modric's pinpoint cross, only for Sergio Ramos to equalise from the penalty spot.
However, there was drama in stoppage time, as David De Gea could only parry a shot into the path of Jedvaj, who sent the Zagreb crowd into raptures with his finish for the victory.
Spain Lack Natural Successor To Declining Sergio Ramos
For club and country, it's not been the best start to the season for Sergio Ramos, and this was another challenging night for the defender.
While he was able to stroll through the first period at times, when Croatia applied more pressure after the break, he was left puzzled by the movement of Ivan Perisic, Ante Rebic and Kramaric.
It was his slack pass in the buildup to Sergi Roberto that allowed Croatia to take the lead; Kieran Canning of Agence France-Presse wasn't impressed:
Spanish football journalist David Cartlidge noted that Ramos was constantly losing his battle against Rebic:
While Ramos did tuck home a penalty late on and continue his extraordinary goalscoring record for a defender—he now has 17 for his country—at the back, Spain have mounting issues.
With the Real Madrid man struggling and Gerard Pique retired, manager Luis Enrique will be worried about the dearth of other high-class options he has in this position.
Croatia Show World Cup Run was No Fluke
When Croatia were hammered 6-0 by Spain earlier in the Nations League, a few eyebrows would have been raised following their shock run to the FIFA World Cup final. But here they showed why they are among the best teams on the planet.
Against a high-class Spain team they sizzled at times, with a vibrant attack complemented well by the midfield mastery of Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Marcelo Brozovic.
There were times when the team did look open, with their enterprising approach epitomised by Jedvaj's bursts forward to score Croatia's second and third goals. However, with so much talent available high up the pitch, it's not a shock to see the team operate with an attacking slant.
In the end, it was an approach that worked well for the home side, and they were deserving of their late winning goal. They now have four points from their four games and can win the group with victory against England next time out.
Croatia will finish their Nations League Group 4 campaign against England on Sunday at Wembley. Spain are also back in action on Sunday, as they welcome Bosnia-Herzegovina to Gran Canaria for a friendly.