Dinamo Defeats Rijeka for Place in Croatian Cup Final Against Hajduk

By 4 April 2018

In the second semifinal of the Croatian Cup, the current leader of the Croatian First League eliminated the 2017 champion, Rijeka. 

Dinamo will join Hajduk in the final of the Croatian Cup after eliminating Rijeka in the semifinal match played at Maksimir in Zagreb (3-0). Hajduk and Dinamo will meet in the final game on May 23rd in Vinkovci, as Hajduk defeated Lokomotiva in a penalty shoot-out last month for their spot in the final.

In the long-awaited semifinal match, Dinamo claimed victory over Rijeka with goals by Hajrović in the 24th minute, Soudani in the 80th and Corić in the 83rd minute to secure their 21st Croatian Cup final. But it was referee Mario Zebec who really stole the show. 

Even though there were two assistant referees and two additional officials during the match, this group of officials had four massive errors in judgement - three at the expense of Rijeka and one for Dinamo.

The 37th minute saw the first instance the officials damaged Rijeka. Rijeka’s Heber made a run towards the goal, and when Heber was passed the ball, the officials called a non-existent offside. Heber was, at the very least, entirely in line with the Dinamo defenders. There was no offside call to be had. 

The poor judgement continued one minute before the half when the officials missed calling a penalty for Dinamo. Soudani pulled a counterattack and found Doumbia, who fired a shot from 20 meters. 10 meters from the goal, the ball hit the elbow of a Rijeka player, which was followed by crickets from Zebec and his refereeing staff. 

Immediately in the second half, and precisely in the second minute, another detrimental mistake was made by the officials at the expense of Rijeka when Bradarić was given an unjustified second yellow card. The Rijeka captain went into a clean duel for the ball with Dinamo’s Perić, after which there was apparent yet unintentional (and slight) contact between the two players. Zebec was quick to give Bradarić his second yellow of the match, forcing the player off the pitch. Rijeka then had to play the rest of the game with ten men. 

In the 71st minute, Rijeka came to realize that their dreams of the Croatian Cup final were over, and it was easy to see why after this final lapse in judgement. After a weak header by Dinamo’s Sosa reached Rijeka’s Acosty, the Rijeka midfielder raced towards the goal in hopes of equalization. Not even one meter before the penalty area, Acosty was taken down by Stojanović. Interestingly, Dinamo's right defender already had a yellow card, so instead, Zebec looked at Acosty and delivered him a yellow card for simulation. No penalty call, and no second yellow for Stojanović. 

This final act of the refereeing disaster at Maksimir gifted Dinamo a place in the Cup final, and the Zagreb club went on to score goals in the 80th and 83rd minute for a 3-0 victory.