Croatia sit top of World Cup Group D after a comfortable 2-0 win over Nigeria in Kaliningrad on Saturday evening.
Zlatko Dalic’s side took the lead in fortunate circumstances when Mario Mandzukic’s 32nd-minute header from a Luka Modric corner was deflected into his own net by the unfortunate Oghenekaro Etebo.
Ivan Perisic’s 14th-minute sighter from the edge of the area fizzed over the bar and set the tone for a solid first-half display from Croatia which saw them dominate possession without creating chances – with their 32nd-minute lead arriving in fortuitous circumstances.
Modric’s left-wing corner was flicked on by Ante Rebic and headed on by Mandzukic. The ball looked to be heading wide, but cannoned off the back of the leg of Stoke City’s new £6m signing Etebo and into the net.
The own goal came despite there being no shots on target from either side in the first half, though the impressive Andrej Kramaric headed narrowly over the bar from an Ivan Rakitic ball shortly before half-time.
Croatia should have doubled their lead when Rakitic played a sublime first-time pass to Perisic on the left and he found an unmarked Rebic in the six-yard box, but the forward volleyed high and wide when he looked certain to score.
However, the second goal came on 71 minutes when Ekong put both arms around Mandzukic from a Modric corner and the referee correctly pointed to the spot.
Modric struck low to the right of goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, who dived the wrong way, to settle a disappointing match and yet give Croatia the perfect start to their World Cup campaign.
The result leaves Croatia in a strong position after the opening fixtures following Argentina’s 1-1 draw with Iceland earlier on Saturday.