A late penalty by Tomas Necid rescued an unlikely 2-2 draw for the Czech Republic against Croatia at Euro 2016 Friday but the match was overshadowed by violence in the Croatian fan block.
With four minutes remaining in St Etienne, the referee Mark Clattenburg interrupted the game to clear firecrackers thrown by Croatian fans from the pitch. A banner showing a message was held up and several skirmishes - seemingly involving only Croatians - broke out.
Necid smashed home an emphatic 90th minute penalty following Domagoj Vida's handball to complete a comeback from two goals down which was started by Milan Skoda's header. Earlier Ivan Perisic and man of the match Ivan Rakitic had put Croatia in a commanding position.
Croatia have four points from two games before their final game against Spain on Tuesday, while the Czechs, who meet Turkey, have one.
"I would be careful using the word miracle, I think we managed to get one point which was very important for us," Czech coach Pavel Vrba said of the comeback. "We'll play for evertyhing in the last match, that's positive."
UEFA confirmed disciplinary proceedings will be opened against Croatia on Saturday for the behaviour of their fans in the latest problems which have plagued the tournament.
"These are terrorists, sports terrorists and they do what they want to do," Croatia coach Ante Cacic said. "These are hooligans, not supporters."
Cacic added that the majority of Croatian fans would be "ashamed" about what happened and said the hooligans could belong to the same right-wing groups which caused problems in the home and away qualifying matches with Italy.
Several firecrackers or flares were thrown onto the pitch and one seemed to explode just as a steward was attempting to collect it.
Fights broke out among the Croatian fans as some stewards tried to restore order but the police were not involved.
Russia have already been handed a suspended disqualification from the tournament after their supporters caused problems while city centres across France have also seen violence from English and German fans.
On the pitch, prompted by midfielders Rakitic and Luka Modric, Croatia dominated proceedings and wasted various chances before opening the scoring.
Modric was leaving most of the creative work to others but sparked a huge cheer from the Croatian fans in the Stade Geoffroy Guichard with a delightful nutmeg of Vladimir Darida.
A lovely flick from Rakitic to one-two with Mario Mandzukic created space for a shot saved by Cech and at this stage a goal felt inevitable.
It arrived moments later but Czech central defender Tomas Sivok will wonder why he allowed Perisic to progress almost unchallenged before he fired across Cech and into the bottom corner.
Any hopes the Czechs had of getting back into the game seemed to vanish when Roman Hubnik passed straight to Marcelo Brozovic, who had a simple task to find Rakitic. The midfielder had not previously scored at a major finals but showed no nerves in clipping over Cech.
Croatia should have made it three when full-back Pavel Kaderabek inadvertently set up Mandzukic who shot over and were made to pay for the miss when the Czechs pulled a goal back with 14 minutes remaining.
Modric was substituted by this point and Cacic was reluctant to say why beyond that he may have a minor muscle problem after a long season.
"I'm not going to say it didn't help in some way but I focus on my team," Vrba said of the influential Modric going off.
The previously quiet Tomas Rosicky found Skoda with a brilliant cross with the outside of his foot and the resulting header found the top corner.
But Rosicky too limped off before the end with a thigh issue and Vrba said doctors would analyse the injury.
Croatia missed further chances and the game was then interrupted for several minutes to restore order in the stands.
The Czechs were able to throw everything forward in search of a lucky equalizer and they got just the break they were looking for when Vida handled in challenging for a high punt into the box.
Necid stayed calm to smash home the penalty and the Czechs could even have snatched an unlikely winner as the distracted Croats threatened to fall apart.
"It's a lack of concentration and of course this was because of the supporters," Cacic said of the late equalizer. "Our players have friends and family in the stands and you can't just focus on the pitch after what happened.
"I'm glad we got a draw and didn't lose the match."
Saturday, June 18, 2016 - 10:27
Wednesday, June 22, 2016 - 00:04