Dinamo Zagreb 4 Celtic 3
Pjaca (3) Scepovic (2)
This was a crazy game in the Croatian capital where the defending, from both sides, was amateurish at times.
The cavernous Maksimir Stadium was virtually empty with the away support nearly outnumbering the home fans. This was mainly caused by the fact that nobody in Croatia seems to like Dinamo Zagreb even their own fans. I’d had four conversations with locals during the day, one of which was with a group of Bad Blue fans who had been banned by the club, and they all hated the chairman. In fact a section of the home support was cordoned off by stewards so that they couldn’t attack other home fans! A discussion with a Hadjuk Split fan revealed that Dinamo are considered to be the ‘Rangers’ of Croatia and I repeatedly heard the view that this was a corrupt league which favoured Dinamo.
The game itself was yet another away European tie where we took the lead but couldn’t hold it. This is the fifth away game that this has happened in and while that is a bit of a positive (how many European away games did we score first in before Ronny came?) it is a cause for concern that we can’t hold a lead. The goals which we lost in the first half were sloppy, but the start of the second half was much more concerning, with the midfield separating from the defence in a manner reminiscent of Warsaw, allowing two quick goals to be conceded.
On the plus side Fisher and Henderson performed well when they came on and we scored three goals away from home in Europe (oh, and we’ve qualified for the next round!) On the negative side the team did not seem up for this game with the second half performance being particularly flat.
The makeshift nature of the team, plus the friendly feel of the game, makes it difficult to draw any conclusions from it except for the obvious one that we will need to defend (as a team) much better to make the last 16. As always, the fans were in good form throughout the match and in the town centre. There was an overblown incident in the first half where a couple of fans got in a fight with each other resulting in a huge number of police entering the away fans area. This also had the consequence of many of us missing the first Zagreb goal while watching what the police were up to.
The fans did though receive a very warm welcome from the Croatians and, partly as a result of this, I’m writing this article at 0400 having had a healthy number of beers and schnapps. I now need to get to bed and see if I can get ‘Last Christmas…’ out of my head!!