Croatia #1 Dominik Livaković had a rollercoaster of a game Wednesday as he was hero, villain, then hero again, as Dinamo Zagreb defeated Romanian club Cluj in the 2nd Round of Champions League qualifying. With Dinamo up 1-0 in the in the 51st minute, center-back Theophile-Catherine pulled down his man in the box to earn Cluj a penalty kick. But Livaković would come up big with a huge save to keep the game 1-0 for Dinamo.
However, Livaković would gift Cluj a present in the 64th minute as he let in a ‘howler’ from 24 yards out that went right through his hands. As an international goalie for a top-10 team in the world, he cannot let that happen…ever again.
Dinamo would take the lead back shortly after through a Lirim Kastrati goal but would concede in injury time with sloppy defense to force the game into extra time. The match ultimately ended up in a penalty kick shootout where Livaković needed to make a save in the fifth round or Dinamo’s Champions League season would be over before it ever began. Livaković made the save, the shootout went into a 7th round, and Cluj’s Kevin Boli shot the ball clear over the crossbar to send Dinamo to the next round.
It was an absolute mediocre game for Dinamo standards but they will take the result. Boy, do they miss Dani Olmo in European play.
In other news, Lokomotiva Zagreb lost 1-0 to Rapid Vienna and will now move to Europa League qualifying, where they will join Hajduk Split, Rijeka, and Osijek.
MATCH HIGHLIGHTS & PENALTIES
The Zagreb clubs – Dinamo and Lokomotiva – begin their Champions League season on Wednesday as two Croatian teams have been admitted to the dance due to the Prva Liga’s fantastic success in European play during the past five seasons. Croatia is currently ranked the 15th best league in Europe; ahead of Switzerland, Scotland and Denmark, to name a few.
Dinamo Zagreb will start their campaign against Romanian champions Cluj in Romania (2PM ET). Only one leg will be played due to COVID. Dinamo made it all the way to the Europa League Round of 16 in 2019 and defeated Champions League quarterfinalists Atalanta 4-0 at Maksimir last September in the opening round match. Now they will start all over without Dani Olmo, who they sold to RB Leipzig last winter.
Prediction: Dinamo wins 2-0 and moves onto the Champions League Third Qualifying Round.
Lokomotiva, on the other hand, will find themselves in unchartered territory. They will be without goalie Ivo Grbić, who was just sold to Atletico Madrid, and will play Rapid Wien, who are regulars in Europa League play (1PM ET). Rapid finished second in the Austrian Bundesliga last season and have much more experience than Lokomotiva. Even though the game is in Zagreb, I see Rapid moving on while Lokomotiva transfers to the Europa League Third Qualifying Round. So regardless of outcome, Lokomotiva will have another game in Europe this season.
Prediction: Rapid Wien beat Lokomotiva 1-0.