However, the game between the two sides will again be overshadowed by side events as a swastika pattern was clearly seen etched onto the pitch. The November qualifier at San Siro, which also ended in a 1-1 draw was temporarily halted by crowd trouble.

It was unclear whether the symbol was mowed into the pitch or painted on the grass, but it was clearly marked in the middle of the half Italy was attacking in the first period.

Grounds crew attempted to cover it up during halftime, but to little avail. Croatia had to play Friday's match without any fans as punishment for racist chanting and other misconduct during last month's qualifier against Norway.

On the pitch, Mario Mandzukic saw a penalty saved by Gianluigi Buffon before scoring the opener.

He also gave away a spot kick which Antonio Candreva converted for the equalizer in the 36th. Norway remained third two points behind Italy following a 0-0 draw at home against Azerbaijan. Bulgaria was two points further back after winning 1-0 in Malta.

The match got off to a lively start as Croatia was awarded a sixth-minute penalty when Davide Astori clumsily tripped Darijo Srna near the byline. However, Gianluigi Buffon guessed correctly and dove smartly to his right to parry Mandzukic's tame spot kick.

Croatia did take the lead just five minutes later, shortly after Stephan El Shaarawy tapped in from eight yards but had his goal incorrectly ruled offside. While several Italy players were protesting to the officials, Croatia resumed play and Mandzukic scored on the counter-attack.

Italy suffered a further blow in the 27th minute when Lorenzo De Silvestri had to be carried off clearly in agony after injuring his knee as he prevented Mateo Kovacic from scoring a second goal.

Italy was already without Marco Verratti, Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Simone Zaza. The visitors leveled in the 36th with a cheeky chipped spot kick a so-called "Panenka penalty" from Candreva after Mandzukic handled Andrea Pirlo's free kick.

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