Croatia and Uzbekistan played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, leaving the pair locked on four points at the top of Group F with a game to go.
Sardor Rakhmanov opened the scoring for Akhmadjan Musaev's team, in what was the first ever meeting between these teams, but Marko Livaja found a second-half equaliser to ensure the spoils were shared.
Dinko Jelicic billed this game as “a tactical war” as, with both sides playing possession-hungry games, it was always going to be a battle for who could gain supremacy in the middle of the field.
With the prize of a guaranteed spot in the next round, both teams were giving their all in Bursa, as the game flowed back and forth, with plenty of speed and technical ability on show. Croatia were keen to exploit the height advantage they possessed and had the first chance when Niko Datkovic headed Marko Pjaca's free-kick just wide.
Uzbekistan though, should have been ahead on 15 minutes, when a neat lofted pass found Igor Sergeev and he beat Oliver Zelenika to the ball, crossing to the far post. On the end of it was Abbosbek Makhstaliev but with the goal gaping he side-footed inches wide.
The Asian side were ahead soon after though. Jamshid Iskanderov's free-kick from the right flank was flicked on, deceiving defenders and goalkeeper, leaving Sardor Rakhmanov the simple task of deflecting the ball in.
Ante Rebic struck wide towards the end of the half, but the game was playing out much in the way Jelicic had envisaged, with both sides fighting hard to control the game as best they could.
The game continued in that vein during the second period, with chances hard to come by against these two well-organised teams in what was an absorbing match. Sergeev and Iksanderov both had efforts from distance but did little to trouble Zelenika – though the latter had an outstanding game, being applauded off the field when later substituted.
Before the change, however, came Croatia's equaliser. Marko Livaja silenced the vocal Uzbekistan support by slotting home Ante Rebic's free-kick after shaking loose his marker. While both teams fought for space and opportunities, little materialised and qualification will have to wait until the final round of Group F.