Neighbours Serbia and Croatia share spoils in 1-1 draw
Mario Mandzukic and Aleksandar Mitrovic scored as Croatia and Serbia drew 1-1
Last Updated: 06/09/13 10:54pm
In what was only the second meeting between the countries since they became independent nations, Mandzukic gave Croatia the lead in the 53rd minute of the Group A clash.
Mitrovic levelled 13 minutes later only for Serbia to be reduced to 10 men when Nemanja Matic was sent off for his second bookable offence following a foul on Ognjen Vukojevic.
However, Croatia held a man advantage for just five minutes with Josip Simunic given a straight red card for a challenge on Miralem Sulejmani.
The stalemate allowed Belgium - 2-0 winners over Scotland tonight - to move five points clear at the top of the group with two games remaining, meaning second-placed Croatia must beat the leaders when they meet next month if they are to take the battle for top spot to the wire.
Serbia have endured a miserable campaign but they almost took an early lead tonight with Mitrovic hitting the post with a shot from the the edge of the six-yard box.
It was all Serbia in the early stages - Mitrovic, Matic, Zoran Tosic and Branislav Ivanovic all firing in efforts.
It was not until the half-hour mark that Croatia showed, Mandzukic mis-heading Eduardo's cross, but the attacks were largely coming from the hosts with Filip Djuricic and Mitrovic unleashing attempts.
The second half started as the first ended, Neven Subotic's drilled shot from distance blocked by Ognjen Vukojevic.
Yet despite all of Serbia's dominance it was Croatia who took the lead.
Darijo Srna split the defence with a pass from his own half which Mandzukic slotted into the bottom right-hand corner.
But Croatia were on level terms 13 minutes later when Mitrovic headed home Sulejmani's cross.
Croatia's task of finding a morale-boosting winner was given a helping hand when Matic was given his marching orders. However, parity was restored just 10 minutes when Simunic was red-carded following his challenge on Sulejmani.