Croatia qualified for the Nations League semifinals next year as defender Dejan Lovren marked his return to the team with a rare goal in a comprehensive 3-1 victory over relegated Austria in Vienna on Sunday.
Lovren, playing his first international in almost a year, scored the third goal for the visitor, which topped League A Group 1 with 13 points from six matches, one point ahead of second-placed Denmark. Austria finished bottom.
Luka Modric gave Croatia an early lead with his 23rd international goal as he took a touch to control Nikola Vlasic’s pass and fired low into the net.
That joy was short-lived as Austria equalised three minutes later when Christoph Baumgartner glanced Marcel Sabitzer's cross into the net with a deft header.
But two goals in three minutes midway through the second period sealed the points for Croatia as Marko Livaja headed home at the back post after a cross from Ivan Perisic, before Lovren was left free by the home defenders to score with a header from Lovro Majer’s cross.
Despite the loss, it was a special night for home forward Marko Arnautovic, who won an Austrian record 104th international cap and moved past Andreas Herzog at the top of the country’s list of most appearances.