Written by dinamofan:), CSR HNL correspondent
Here are the results for Nov. 20-22…
Karlovac [1 – 3] Dinamo Zagreb
Dinamo Zagreb are certain to be top of the Croatian league by the start of the winter break after opening up a five point lead at the summit following a victory over Karlovac. Dinamo has rested elder players Etto, Leandro Cufre and Robert Kovač in recent weeks as Ivan Tomečak, Luis Ibanez and Miroslav Slepička continued in the team. Dinamo took the lead on 30 minutes after Milan Badelj’s strike found its way in under keeper Ivan Grabovac. The second came midway through the second half through leading scorer Pedro Morales who netted his 12th of the season after being set up by Slepička.
The Chilean international departed the match 10 minutes later to be replaced by Sammir and Karlovac netted shortly after through former Varteks man Enes Novinić to set up an edgy last 20 minutes. With both sides pressing for the next goal, its was Dinamo who grabbed it in the last seconds of the game with a second from Badelj after great work by substitute Andrej Kramarić. The game saw the return of Croatia’s Mario Mandžukić to Dinamo’s line up, but the striker still looks short of match sharpness. The 23 year old looks set to go into winter break having struggled to find his best form. It is more than likely Mandžukić will continue with Dinamo till the end of the season as his value has dropped. The stock of Milan Badelj, Dejan Lovren and Pedro Morales has most definitely risen, whilst there has been recent improvement in the games of Slepička and Adrian Callelo, both who may see regular action in the second part of the season. Dmitrios Papadopoulos has now fallen out of favor having just scored four goals in 20 matches played in all competitions, which does not meet the expectations of the “Croatian Champions.”
Hajduk Split [6 – 0] Croatia Sesvete
HAJDUK EASILY HOPPED OVER A POOR SESVETE SIDE
Hajduk finally threw off the shackles and recorded their first high scoring win of the season, defeating relegation candidates Croatia Sesvete 6-0. Sesvete lost coach Nenad Gracan to Rijeka before the winter break and also parted with key defenders Vedran Celiščak and Tomo Labudović as Hajduk took advantage in clinical fashion. Hrvoje Vejić opened the scoring on 20 minutes before Senijad Ibričić netted the second just before half time. Paraiba netted the third, before Ibričić struck again. Youngster Ante Vukusić then netted his second of the season, before Anas Sharbini’s penalty wrapped up a comfortable win.
The victory may still prove inconclusive for Hajduk due to the weak nature of the opponent. Edy Reja brought back Goran Rubil into the side and rested Mirko Oremus giving a rare start to Marin Tomasov. Ibričić’s man of the match performance is likely to further increase the likeliness of a winter transfer with Koln, Celtic, Besiktas, Hamburg, Wolfsburg or the Blackburn Rovers who all reported to be interested in his signature. Hajduk move up to a more respectable 7th position in the HNL1 standings, but are still 8 points behind second place Šibenik.
Cibalia Vinkovci [1 – 1] NK Osijek
An opportunity missed for both these sides as a draw was played out in Vinkovci. Osijek were shy of key players Jurica Pranjić, Vedran Jugović and Karlo Primorac, but took the lead nevertheless early on through Josip Barišić. Osijek attempted to extend the lead through Knežević and Ibriks but were made to pay for missed opportunities when Tomislav Pavlivić struck the equalizer. Pavlivić then closed in for the winner but was prevented by a saving challenge from Domogoj Vida. Cibalia and Osijek drop down to third and fourthplace respectively due to Šibenik’s win over Međimurje. However, they will both be more concerned at allowing Hajduk Split to close the gap going into the winter break.
15TH ROUND HNL HIGHLIGHTS
Varteks Varaždin [0 – 0] Slaven Belupo
Varteks’ goalless draw with in form Slaven Belupo failed to lift the gloom surrounding the Varaždin club as they stay fourth from the bottom in the HNL1 standings. In a match played in fog, Varteks aimed to catch their opponents off guard with a decent strike force of Tkalcic and Smrekar, but neither registered as Tomislav Pelin played a decent game in place of out of form Rodić. Varteks look to have an extremely tough season ahead. The Varaždin club are relying on a sale in the January transfer window in order to avoid major financial trouble. However, their prize assets Goran Mujanović, Matija Smrekar and Igor Prahić have failed to find form this season and are valued at less than 500, 000 Euro. Fortunately for Varteks, only Zagreb and Inter Zaprešić recorded wins in the lower half of the table.
NK Rijeka [2 – 0] Istra 1961
Nenad Gracan opened his tenure in charge of HNK Rijeka with a 2-0 win over HNL lackies Istra. After struggling to break down Istra in the first 40 minutes, Rijeka finally got their goal before half time through Hrvoje Strok. Ramon Fernandez blew the chance to score a second from the penalty spot, but Sandi Križman saved his blushes by sealing the game with his first of the season. Rijeka join Hajduk on 22 points and will be looking for a win next week to move to a more competitive postion to challenge the top 5. Istra stay third from bottom and need to escape the relegation zone which still alludes them.
HNK Šibenik [1 – 0] Međimurje
Šibenik got back to their winning ways after their nightmare against Dinamo last week with this 1-0 win over Međimurje. Shy of the suspended star striker Ermin Zec, Šibenik turned to their other talisman Mehmed Alispahić to grab the goal in the dying minutes of the match. The Bosnian fired home a free kick to provide the moment of inspiration they had struggled to find, despite long periods of domination. Šibenik, who currently sit second, are sure to be well placed when HNL1 goes into its winter break and will turn their attention to the January transfer window during which Zec is certain to leave bringing in new funds into the club.
NK Zagreb [4 – 0] NK Zadar
NK Zagreb kept their hopes of avoiding relegation alive after defeating Zadar in the Friday afternoon match. Davor Vugrinec was once again pivotal as the 34 year old former Croatian international scored his eighth league goal of the season in the 3rd minute. Strike partner Ivan Kristanović got the seconds, before Marko Kartelo and another from Vugrinec sealed the win with two goals in the last ten minutes. Vugrinec has now scored 8 times in his last 5 matches and moves ahead of Mario Mandžukić as the league’s second highest scorer. Zagreb still have a lot to do, as they are 5 points behind fourth from bottom Varteks and are seven points behind those further above. However, the confidence appears to be returning to their key players and another win next week should set them up to make a real fight for the HNL1 status in the second half of the season.
Lokomotiva [0 – 1] Inter Zaprešić
Brazilian striker Dodo snatched a late winner give Inter Zaprešić an important win over Lokomotiva. It was the 22 year old’s second goal of the season which sparked big celebrations on the final whistle. The win lifts Zaprešić into midtable. Earlier in the match both teams were reduced to ten men when Mirslav Orsić and Matej Bagarić were red carded. Inter Zaprešić announced at midweek the signing of Montenegrin Under 21 representative Saša Balić, who can play for the club from January on.
Next Matches: Round 16
Saturday, November 28th
Dinamo Zagreb at Istra 1961
Osijek at Hajduk Split
Sesvete at Šibenik
Zadar at Cibalia
Rijeka at Lokomotiva
Slaven Belupo at NK Zagreb
Međimurje at Karlovac
Inter at Varteks