Luka Modrić chases down Aston Villa’s James Milner
Luka Modrić and Vedran Ćorluka helped Tottenham secure a 2-1 upset against Aston Villa on Sunday. Modrić started the play that led to the Spurs first goal in the 5th minute as he put a nice ball on the wing, which was crossed back to the middle. American goalie, Brad Friedel, mishandled the ball which was then easily headed in by Jermaine Jenas.
Modrić is playing fabulous ball and is becoming a wizard in the midfield. He should be feared to play against; not questioned to if he belongs in the Premiership.
Vedran Ćorluka surprisingly did not start for Tottenham but was subbed in at the 35′ mark for Didier Zokora who could not stop numerous Villa attacks as he earned an early caution. Ćorluka put all worries aside as he shut down the Aston Villa offense throughout the rest of the game.
Niko Kranjčar and Portsmouth took on Middlesbrough in a Premiership relegation battle. As Peter Crouch scored an early goal for Pompey and Middlesbrough losing a man to a red card in the 77′, it looked as if Portsmouth would be earning an all-important three points. Kranjčar was subbed out in 90th minute injury time for a defensive replacement. Moments later- Middlesbrough tied the game.
Kranjčar received 1st team honors for the Premiership’s 29th round even though he is playing for an unlucky and almost relegated Portsmouth side. Only makes his value rise. Should Pompey stay in the Premiership, I still see Kranjčar leaving for a better club and a better opportunity.
Eduardo sat out Arsenal’s 4-0 win over Blackburn as he tends to a pulled muscle in his leg. Reports also have him out of this Tuesday’s (3/17) FA Cup quarterfinal match with Hull City. Arsenal’s next Premiership match is Saturday, March 21st away to Newcastle. It would be nice to see Eduardo in the lineup; but don’t count on it.
Ivica Olić and Mladen Petrić started their week off by taking on Turkish side, Galatasaray, in UEFA Cup Round of 16 action on March 12th in Hamburg. Petrić played the full 90 while Olić was given a chance to rest as he was subbed in at the 71′ mark to add some fire power to the 1-1 game.
Petrić missed a point blank chance on goal early in the first half as he was one-on-one with the Turkish keeper while Olić missed a turnaround shot with the goalie out of position with only seconds left in the match. As much as Olić and Petrić have been goal scoring machines for Hamburg, both of them still have the bad habit of having horrible games; and this was one of them. The match ended 1-1 and the return leg will be played Thursday, March 19th in Turkey.
Both Olić and Petrić returned to action and started three days later as Hamburg took on Energie Cottbus in the BundesLiga 24th round. Half an hour into the match, Mladen Petrić came up limping and had to be subbed out with a torn thigh muscle. Petrić will be out 2-3 weeks and will miss the UEFA Cup return leg as well as Croatia’s April 1st qualifier away to Andorra.
Moments after Petrić’s substitution, Ivica Olić scored a beautiful header to put Hamburg up 1-0. Olić missed golden opportunities in his UEFA Cup match earlier in the week but surely made up for it with this goal.
Meanwhile in other BundesLiga news, Josip Šimunić, Marko Babić and Hertha Berlin keep on rolling as they beat Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 to remain in 1st place. It’s going to be a dead heat down the stretch as four teams are within 4 points of each other for first. Babić made a cameo appearance for Hertha as he came in late to run around a few minutes in injury time.
Šimunić once again helped Berlin post a shutout as he has been a complete beast on defense this season. He’s receiving much praise and should receive ‘Defender of the Year’ for Germany. I can’t even remember the last time he was booked!
Ivan Rakitic played the entire game as Schalke lost the dual with Wolfsburg, 4-3. Ivan hasn’t produced recently with what looks like his last couple games with Schalke. Where will he land this summer?
Danijel Pranjić netted yet another penalty for Heerenveen in a 5-1 whooping over Sparta Rotterdam. Pranjić now has 16 goals and 3 assists in 24 games for Heerenveen this season. His stock only keeps rising as Heerenveen fights for a Champion’s League spot and Pranjić auditions for teams across Europe for a possible summer transfer.
Ivan Jurić and Genoa shutout Cagliari 1-0 to take sole position of fourth place in Serie A. With only 10 games left in the season, Genoa might grab a Champion’s League spot after all. Jurić might have to sit out this week’s game as he once again received another yellow card. It looks like Šimunić has passed his yellow card reputation to Jurić in Italy.
A MESSAGE TO THE COACH?
Ivan Klasnić was left on the pine. For all of you wanting Klasnić to be a part of the squad vs. Andorra, do you still think he deserves a spot when he’s not even playing for a 16th place team in the French league?
Dario Simić and Jerko Leko started for Monaco in a 3-2 victory over Toulouse.
Nikola Pokrivač came in for Leko in the 66th minute. Looks like all the Croatians got in the game for Monaco in a relatively important game. All three were card-free. Monaco now sits 11th in France.
Vedran before the match
Vedran Runje was back in action for RC Lens at home to Ajaccio on Friday. After a series of fine saves, Vedran let one slip by which ultimately cost Lens in a 1-0 loss. Lens controlled most of the match and had multiple chances on goal. Even after this loss, Lens still tops the table, six points ahead of second place Metz.
Runje (center right) before the match
Vedran didn’t train with his teammates on Monday because of a pulled hamstring. Sportske Novosti has confirmed that Runje picked up a minor knock, trained on the bike, and should be back in time for next Friday’s match at Guingamp. Anyone interested in seeing Runje in net vs. Andorra? Not that they’re going to get a shot off or anything like that.
The 2009 Russian season is underway and what better way to do it here at CSR than have the two Croatians go at it. Stipe Pletikosa and Spartak Moscow took on Ivica Križanac’s Zenit St. Petersburg side. Both Croats played the full 90 minutes in the 1-1 draw.
WAS PLETIKOSA AT FAULT FOR THE GOAL?
It was a solid free kick but Pletikosa didn’t even attempt to block the shot. Was it the wall’s fault or just plain bad goaltending by Pleti? Or just a solid kick by Pogrebniak?
Earlier in the week, Zenit lost its Uefa Cup Round of 16 match to Udinese in Italy 2-0. The return leg will take place Thursday, March 19th in Russia.
Dario Srna started the week off in UEFA Cup with a 1-0 away loss to CSKA Moscow. The return leg this Thursday in Ukraine should be a great test for Shakhtar Donetsk.
Shakhtar returned to Ukrainian league action on the weekend with a 3-0 away win at Metalist Kharkiv. Darijo Srna assisted on one of the goals off a crisp free kick. Shakhtar now sits alone in second place but are still 12 points behind Ognjen Vukojević’s Dynamo Kiev side.
Meanwhile, Ognjen Vukojević scored the lone goal of the game in Kiev’s 1-0 win over fellow Ukrainian side, Metalist Kharkiv, in UEFA Cup Round of 16. It was a quick-reflex header off of a corner. The return leg is this Thursday in Kharkiv.
Dynamo Kiev won again on the weekend as they trampled over Metalurg Zaporizhya 3-1. Vukojević did not score or receive a card in this game.
Monaco at Grenoble (Coupe de France)
Hamburg at Galatasaray (Uefa Cup)
Udinese at Zenit St. Petersburg (Uefa Cup)
Dynamo Kiev at Metalist Kharkiv (Uefa Cup)
Heerenveen at De Graafschap, Lens at Guingamp
Chelsea at Tottenham, Everton at Portsmouth, Nantes at Marseille, Monaco at AS Nancy, Karlsruhe at Bayern Munich, Hertha Berln at VfB Stuttgart, Spartak Moscow at Kuban Krasnodar
Sporting Gijon at Numancia, Hamburg at Schalke 04, Asteras Tripoli at Panathinaikos, Udinese at Genoa, Saturn Moscow at Zenit St Petersburg, Vorskla-Naftohaz Poltava at Shakhtar Donetsk
Arsenal Kyiv at Dynamo Kyiv
~Denis Svirčić, reporting from Indian Wells, California
~Ante Kvartuč, reporting from his bed at 3 o’clock in the morning after a 7 hour post (which is already past due as it is)