Overall, it was a very successful week for Croatians in European play. The week began with a “passing of the torch” moment between Vatreni legend Ivan Rakitić and 19 year-old future star Luka Sučić. In the 21st minute of their matchup, Sučić converted a penalty to give Red Bull Salzburg a 1-0 lead over Sevilla. Although Sučić missed another penalty opportunity later in the first half – hitting the right post – Sevilla’s Ivan Rakitić converted a penalty of his own in the 42nd minute to tie the game at one a piece. The game ended 1-1, and both Sučić and Rakitić were voted ‘Man of the Match’ by their respective sides. The two midfielders met after the match, celebrating Sučić’s first Champions League goal and the penalty scored by Rakitić, showing the world he still has ice in his veins from the spot.
Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozović and Ivan Perišić met Luka Modrić and Real Madrid on Wednesday in Italy. Modrić and Brozović were the two highest rated field players of the match, both earning 7.6 SofaScore ratings. While being subbed off in the 80th minute of play, Luka Modrić received an ovation from the Inter Milan crowd at San Siro. G.O.A.T. status!
Ante Rebić continued his terrific form as he scored AC Milan’s first Champions League goal in seven years. Rebić finished a beautiful counter attack against the Liverpool defense to tie the game 1-1. Liverpool went on to win the match 3-2.
Mateo Kovačić delivered another fantastic performance for Chelsea in their 1-0 victory over Zenit St. Petersburg. The midfield maestro was once again Chelsea’s ‘Man of the Match’. Kovačić is one of the Premier League’s most in-form players at the moment, and has seemed to have finally found his rhythm in London.
Ivo Grbić made his Champions League debut, starting for LOSC Lille in their opening matchup against Wolfsburg. The goalkeeper opened his Champions League résumé with a clean sheet. Will he pass Dominik Livaković and become Croatia’s #1 in goal?
Josip Juranović scored his first goal for Celtic Thursday against Real Betis in the Europa League. The right-back converted a penalty in the first half to give his side a 2-0 lead. However, Real Betis came back to win the match 4-3.
Eintracht Frankfurt’s newest signing, Kristijan Jakić, started Thursday for the German side in a 1-1 tie against Turkish giants Fenerbahce. Jakić performed very well and created many scoring opportunities from the center-midfield role, and was Frankfurt’s second highest rated field player. Dinamo Zagreb recently sent Jakić on a one year loan to the Bundesliga.
Speaking of Dinamo, the Croatian champions fell 2-0 to England’s West Ham United to open their 2021-22 Europa League campaign. Two dreadful mistakes playing the ball out of the back led to West Ham’s goals. Luka Ivanušec, one of the newest members of the Vatreni, was Dinamo’s only outstanding performer. Dominik Livaković and his poor-performing back line were Dinamo’s downfall. Nikola Vlašić made his first start for The Hammers Thursday night in Zagreb.
Can a Croatian lift the Champions League trophy for a 10th year straight? Based on recent performances, I’m picking Chelsea to win this season’s Champions League again – which would hand Mateo Kovačić his FIFTH Champions League trophy.