Following their opening 1-0 loss against England at Wembley last weekend, Zlatko Dalic’s side went into Friday evening’s important Group D contest in Glasgow needing to avoid another defeat to keep their qualification hopes intact.
However, the confident Czechs struck first through star striker Patrik Schick, who moved clear of Romelu Lukaku, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ciro Immobile and Ukraine duo Roman Yaremchuk and Andriy Yarmolenko as the tournament’s leading Golden Boot contender as things stand.
While Monday’s brace in the 2-0 win over Scotland included a wonder goal from near the halfway line, this was an emphatic effort from just the 12 yards after Spanish referee Carlos del Cerro Grande was advised by the VAR to check the pitchside monitor after Dejan Lovren’s elbow on Schick as the duo competed in an aerial challenge before controversially pointing to the spot.
Croatia were furious as replays were shown on the big screen at Hampden but the resilient Schick, with his nose and shirt bloodied, kept his composure to send Dominik Livakovic the wrong way with an emphatic 37th-minute penalty.
Dalic introduced Bruno Petkovic and Luka Ivanusec at the interval and those changes quickly appeared to have the desired impact of offering the lacklustre Croatians more energy and attacking nous.
They got their reward within two minutes of the restart when Inter Milan forward Perisic cut inside West Ham’s Vladimir Coufal – who slipped at the vital moment – before lashing a powerful effort beyond Tomas Vaclik, who could perhaps have done better despite the sheer venom on the shot.
Chances were otherwise at a premium in Glasgow, with the result and four points surely guaranteeing the Czech Republic’s qualification for the last 16 under the new Euros format that guarantees qualification for four of the best third-place group finishers.
Meanwhile, Croatia will surely have to beat Scotland back at Hampden on Tuesday night in order to avoid an unexpected group stage exit.