Croatia climbed atop its European Championship qualifying group by beating Armenia 1-0 away on Monday thanks to Andrej Kramarić’s goal in a first half that saw the game briefly delayed because of a drone carrying a political message.
The striker tapped in at the far post after a 13th-minute corner from Luka Modric deflected off an Armenia player and went straight to Kramaric, who stuck out a foot and diverted the ball in. The goal was checked for offside as it appeared Croatia defender Josko Gvardiol got a touch, too.
After starting Group D with a disappointing 1-1 home draw with Wales, Croatia has won three straight matches and gone above Turkey on goal difference, having played one game fewer.
The match in Yerevan was delayed for about 70 seconds from the 35th minute when a drone carrying the flag of Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway Armenian-populated region of Azerbaijan, flew over the field — to cheers and applause from many home fans, according to footage on social media.
The incident comes amid soaring tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, with lawmakers in the region — which the Armenians call Artsakh — voting to elect a new separatist president on Saturday in a move that was strongly condemned by the Azerbaijani authorities.
It is set to lead to a UEFA disciplinary case on the grounds of it being a political statement at a game.
In 2014, a drone with a political banner was flown into the stadium where Albania and Serbia were playing a European Championship qualifier in Belgrade, prompting clashes among players. Serbian fans also attacked Albania team members and threw flares onto the field.
The game was abandoned and Serbia initially awarded a default 3-0 victory by UEFA. The sanction was reversed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Later Monday, Portugal goes for a sixth straight win in Group J when Roberto Martinez’s team hosts Luxembourg.
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer