Ante Vukušić celebrates opening goal against Skonto
Ante Vukušić’s 34th-minute strike gave Hajduk a lead they would not relinquish in Split today as the bijeli downed Latvian league leaders Skonto in the first of two Europa League qualifiers. Vukušić ran onto a lovely through ball behind the Skonto defence before neatly chipping the ball into the vacant visitor’s goal.
Vukušić’s goal not only secured the win for Hajduk but it also highlighted his gift for scoring huge goals against European competition — who can forget Vukušić’s dagger two years ago that gave Hajduk a 1-0 win over Anderlecht in this same competition?
“We showed that we should believe in ourselves. I have practiced kicked the ball like that in training and this is how I scored and assisted on the other. Let’s remain calm without panic.”
~player of the match, Ante Vukušić
Vukušić was not expected to play as the club is actively shopping its most valuable remaining player in an effort to raise some desperately needed cash. Earlier this week Hajduk struck a deal with Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad, sending playmaker Anas Sharbini to the Jeddah-based club on a one-year loan. Vukušić’s strike will certainly remind managers across Europe of the 21-year-old’s untapped potential and should help secure Hajduk a sizeable transfer fee.
Hajduk carried the one-goal lead into the half before doubling its advantage in the 58th minute. Midfielder Dinko Trebotić worked a nice give-and-go with Vukušić inside the Skonto penalty area before burying a loose ball.
Hajduk 2-0 Skonto
Goalkeeper Goran Blažević was solid for Hajduk, especially in the last 15 minutes as Skonto pressed for an away goal. Blažević made a fine save in the 80th minute off a well struck shot from just outside the Hajduk penalty area to preserve his clean sheet before he was again called upon in the 90th minute. This time Blažević stood tall against a loan Skonto attacker who had latched onto a long ball over the top of the Hajduk defence. Finally, Blažević deserved full marks for securing a dangerous free kick under pressure in the game’s dying moments.
“We achieved a nice result which is not as carefree as it seems. In the second game in Riga, we must be calm and poised so that our passage to the next round would not come into question. In the past, all sorts of miracles happened, but we need to bring one more European match for our wonderful fans. I didn’t expect so many fans at Poljud but it is obvious that everyone wanted to see Hajduk after a long break. The game was not pretty, but we held our opponents in their half for a long period of time. This was the first time that the team played together and we will need some time to warm up.”
~Hajduk manager, Mišo Krstičević
Josip Radošević, Matej Jonjić, Avdija Vršajević, Trebotić and Vukušić all picked up yellow cards in the scrappy affair.
Torcida showed up in great numbers at Poljud
Hajduk: Blažević – Vršajević, Maloča, Jonjić, Jozinović – Radošević, Andrijašević – Sušić, Trebotić, Caktaš – Vukušić.
Skonto: Malins – Gjorgievski, Savčenkovs, Maksimenko, Amirkhanov – Rios, Ibragimov, Fertovs, Sinelnikovs – Blanks, Labukas.