Croatia coach Niko Kovac has apologised for the ugly scenes in the crowd that marred his side’s 1-1 draw with Italy in Milan yesterday.
The 2016 European qualifier at the San Siro was temporarily stopped in both halves by Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers after visiting fans threw fireworks and smoke bombs onto the pitch.
At one point, the players were taken off the pitch for 10 minutes by the referee.
“I apologise to everyone, especially the Italians, for our supporters’ behaviour,” Kovac said.
“I was disappointed and helpless, there are no right words for this. If someone has a problem, he has to deal with it outside the stadium.
“This is not the real image of Croatia, Croatians are honest people that respect other nations, while this kind of behaviour leads nowhere. Of course, Croatia will face sanctions, but I think there is no reason for any point deductions.”
The result left the two sides level on 10 points at the top of Group H after four games with both teams having gone into the encounter on the back of three straight wins in qualifying.
Antonio Candreva put the hosts ahead in the 11th minute when he scored his first international goal but Croatia’s Ivan Perisic equalised four minutes later, but the rhythm of the match was subsequently broken up by events in the stands.
“We had Italy under control for almost 90 minutes,” Kovac added. “Italy defended well, and we were aware that our chances will be rare. They were better - for instance those for Olic and Perisic at the end of both halves – and I am satisfied. I am also a bit sad, since we missed an opportunity to win due to the events in the second half.”
Italy coach Antonio Conte said he had feared the match would be abandoned completely.
“I was really scared that the game might be definitively stopped,” he said in comments reported by Gazzetta dello Sport. “The referee was very clear, if they did not stop, he would have ended it.”
Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric, forced off in the first half with an injury, said: “It’s always the same and I do not understand why they do it. It’s a shame to have fans like that.
“I do not know why they continue to behave like this. It’s madness.”