Monday, 6 December 2021

HNL Round 18 Recap: Hajduk Tops Dinamo 2:0 in 'Eternal Derby' at Maksimir

December 6, 2021 - The 18th round of the Croatian First League was held from December 4 to 6, 2021. This round saw Hajduk win the 'Eternal Derby' against Dinamo, while Osijek and Gorica drew, and Istra and Belupo will close out the round tonight. Here is our HNL round 18 recap (so far). 

Gorica v. Osijek (1:1)

Gorica and Osijek opened the 18th round on Saturday, December 4, 2021, in Velika Gorica in front of 673 fans. 

Prsir scored for the Gorica lead in the 6th minute, which they maintained until the 3rd minute of stoppage time when Osijek's Hiros scored for 1:1 at the half. Kleinheisler was booked for his second yellow in the 61st minute, forcing Osijek to play with a man down for the remainder of the match. 

 

Gorica is currently in 5th place with 26 points, while Osijek is in 2nd with 35 (and one game less). 

Rijeka v. Hr. Dragovoljac (4:1)

Rijeka and Dragovoljac met at Rujevica Stadium on Saturday, December 4, 2021. 

Rijeka's scoring spree started in the 16th minute when Obregon found the back of the net for 1:0. Muric increased Rijeka's lead to 2:0 in the 44th minute. Muric scored again in the 47th minute to increase Rijeka's lead to 3:0, but Petkovic gave Dragovoljac some hope with a goal in the 67th minute for 3:1. Muric secured his hattrick with his third goal in the 80th minute for the final 4:1. 

 

Rijeka is currently in first place with 36 points (and one game less), while Dragovoljac is in last place with 7. 

Lokomotiva and Sibenik (1:1)

Lokomotiva and Sibenik met in Zagreb on Sunday, December 5, 2021. 

Gorican put Lokomotiva in the lead in the 39th minute with a goal for 1:0 at the half. Curic equalized for Sibenik in the 66th minute for 1:1. which was the final score. 

 

Lokomotiva is currently in 6th place with 23 points, while Sibenik is in 7th with 19. 

Dinamo v. Hajduk (0:2)

Dinamo and Hajduk met in the 'Eternal Derby' on Sunday, December 5, 2021, in front of around 10,000 fans. 

While the first half went without goals, Hajduk's king Marko Livaja chipped Livakovic for 0:1 in the 60th minute. Then, Livaja assisted Sahiti at the top of the box for a late-match screamer in the 4th minute of stoppage time and the final 0:2 for Hajduk. 

 

Dinamo is currently in 4th place with 31 points (and two games less), while Hajduk is in 3rd with 34 (and one game less). 

Istra 1961 v. Slaven Belupo - December 6, 2021, at 18:00.

Istra and Belupo will close out the 18th round on Monday evening. Istra is currently in 8th place with two games behind, while Belupo is in 9th place with one game behind.  We will update this article once the match finishes. 

You can see the HNL standings HERE

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Friday, 3 December 2021

Banja Luka, Tuzla Have Flights, So Why No Flights to Osijek?

December 3, 2021 - The TCN inbox is currently as interesting as it has ever been. As we start to focus a little more on Slavonia, one obvious question is why there are almost no flights to Osijek, when nearby airports such as Tuzla and Banja Luka offer routes to several countries?

As I get older, I get a little smarter, and life gets just a little easier. 

We are working on a few initiatives at the moment - the TCN Split Winter Tourism Round Table on December 13, the new Vukovar Card concept, and a general mission to tell the world how amazing and full of life Slavonia and the rest of eastern Croatia is. Because it really is. Time to Tell the Truth about Slavonia Full of Life.

All three initiatives have generated traffic in the TCN inbox, and the bit where I am now smarter is that I am inviting people with contributions to make on Split winter tourism, developing tourism in Slavonia, and promoting the Vukovar Card concept to contact me and explain how they can help. 

The contributions have been beyond magnificent.

One such contribution came recently in the form of a Croatian aviation expert who wishes to be anonymous at this point. He has given me some really useful information on the Splilt winter flights scene and possibilities. He has also been very generous with his time, so I decided to extend my line of questioning to talk about Slavonia. 

For all the talk of investing and rebuilding eastern Croatia after the war, the results have been lamentable, and it is clear that funds have been prioritised elswhere in Croatia,  where lobbies and private interests are stronger. It is a subject I plan to explore in some detail in 2022, but for now, I focused on something I was keen to understand - the questions and answers are below in full. 

Osijek. Why do budget airlines there fail when Tuzla and Banja Luka succeed?

Firstly, what, and how are you defining success? Tuzla and Banja Luka are two different animals.

Tuzla paid vast sums to Wizzair to establish a base there and over time has developed the airport through its low fares, mostly taking passengers away from Sarajevo. Banja Luka is a dog, with the government there paying all of the costs for airlines to fly there so it can’t be considered as a success in any light. Its very similar to what the Serbia government does with Niš airport and more recently this new ex air force base airport in Serbia, I’ve forgotten the name of it.

Osijek has not seen any major investment since the airport opened after the war. I’ve seen countless management team efforts eager to attract flights to Osijek and they have always been open to any suggestions for assistance. The main problem is they lack any financial power to provide subsidies and the local government doesn’t have the purse strings to help either. The national government and Croatian National Tourist Board focus are Zagreb and the coast as it’s always been. On top of that, they need to learn how to make business cases for airlines to launch potential routes and have an in-depth knowledge of its economy in Slavonia. They don’t have any of this and thus no idea of what their potential business and leisure markets could be. I understand there is a diaspora link with Mostar, Dalmatia, Austria, Germany, Hungary, and Ireland. The Hungarian government launched a PSO program that Wizzair won to operate flights between Osijek and Budapest in the past. I’m not sure if it still operates as it was of limited nature.

As we know, Ryanair only sticks around as long as its payments are coming in, once they stop then the airline goes elsewhere. Yes Eurowings is another airline that attempted to make Osijek work but failed. The biggest problem I see is that Osijek somehow manages to raise money for subsidies but not to continue marketing the route at the destination. Too seldom airports and the Croatian National Tourist Board in Croatia assume the airline will carry on with marketing the route when services are launched, but in reality the airlines have limited resources to market a route as the Croatian National Tourist Board should be doing.

I think Osijek has a huge potential as a cheap and undiscovered city break gem, with the additional traffic from the diaspora.

Thoughts?

A few years back I visited Osijek for a weekend city break, and I was surprised when I went for breakfast and found the restaurant full of elderly tourists from the UK. At the time I knew there were no direct flights operating from Osijek and the UK which means they travelled via Zagreb. Slavonia has trouble marketing itself and the Croatian National Tourist Board does little to assist, so they are left to fend for themselves.

Considering the number of wineries in the area, it’s amazing that this is not marketed to potential tourists. But then none of the wineries in Croatia are adequately marketed to tourists in the first place. I’m originally from Australia and in Australia and internationally our wineries and winery trails are known throughout Australia and internationally. OK, Australia has a large export market for its wines, but you have the wine industry working together with Tourism Australia to promote their products in those markets, thus attracting tourists to the wine regions.

The Croatian National Tourist Board should be winding down their subsidies towards the cruise industry, and package holiday organisers aimed at the coast during the summer period. Millions of euros are spent on this annually and should be focused more on other regions of Croatia like Slavonia, or even mandate that any subsidies on the coast should also include operations in Slavonia. It’s been a while since I was last in Osijek so I’m not up to date on how much the infrastructure for tourism has progressed there. This could be a limiting factor along with the limited amount of corporate travel. 

If you are interested in working with TCN and have some knowledge or expertise to contribute to the Split winter tourism, Vukovar Card, or Make Osijek Great Again (MOGA) initiatives, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject (choose one) Split Winter Tourism/Vukovar Card/MOGA I am particularly keen to talk to someone who has good information and the financials on annual subsidies to airlines and other forms of transport.

Thursday, 2 December 2021

PHOTOS: Spectacular Kaleidoscope Lights of Osijek City Day and Advent 2021

December 02, 2021 – A spectacular light show exploded across Ante Starčević square in Osijek this evening, welcoming hundreds of visitors to Osijek City Day and to the opening of Osijek Advent 2021. Among those gathered to witness the colourful display was the Croatian Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković.

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In recent times, Osijek's Ante Starčević square has seldom looked so thrilling. It is a wide and open city square - the only place in Osijek where the city tram lines all meet. Except for one modern sculpture and a statue of Ante Starčević, the square is floored with featureless concrete. The fine facades of surrounding Austro-Hungarian buildings have seen better years. In many instances, these historic frontages are cheapened by gaudy branded signage and advertisements.

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But, tonight, all the unsightly modern scars were hidden as an ocean of patterns and colours danced across the square. Children skipped along new pathways created by the brilliant lights' design. Now in its third year, these bright embellishments are part of the Kaleidoscope Festival of Lights. The arrival of its magical scenes heralds not only the start of this year's Osijek Advent but also marks Osijek City Day 2021.

Osijek City Day - 2 December

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People have lived on this part of the Drava river for millennia. But, quite often, the modern life of Osijek city is only viewed as having begun after the Ottomans were removed by the Battle of Mohács. From 1687, Osijek and the eastern part of Croatia were part of the Habsburg Empire. But, Osijek remained close to the border of the new encroachment on Ottoman territory. Defensive fortresses were built along this line of defence, in Stara Gradiška, Osijek and Slavonski Brod in Slavonia and in Petrovaradin in Syrmia/Srem (Serbia).

Today, Osijek's fortress - Tvrđa – contains the largest collection of Baroque buildings in Croatia. It is a fantastic and picturesque location. There, Osijek's old city walls spectacularly overlook the Drava river. But, back when the city's defence was all-important, these walls made it difficult for Osijek to expand. Progress and growth proved impossible to hinder and, with the threat of the Ottomans becoming ever smaller, the population of Osijek simply began to settle outside the walls of Tvrđa. Indeed, today, residents of the city regard Osijek as having three centres – Lower Town, Tvrđa and Upper Town aka Ante Starčević square.

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At the beginning of the 18th century, separate magistrates resided over Osijek's Lower and Upper Towns, effectively marking them as independent city municipalities. In order to gain status as a free and royal city, local authorities were eventually persuaded to unify the different municipalities on 2 December 1786. Since then, 2 December has been celebrated as Osijek City Day.

Kaleidoscope Festival of Light and Osijek Advent 2021

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The incredible light show on Ante Starčević square is just one part of an Advent manifestation that, like the city itself, stretches long down the side of the Drava river.

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The first candle of Advent 2021 was lit by the Archbishop of Đakovo-Osijek Đuro Hranić on Sunday 28 November. Osijek City Day celebrations are the second key milestone of the Christmas holiday season. City-wide Christmas lights were formally turned on today at the Croatian National Theatre Osijek.

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Osijek Advent 2021 includes the return of the Kaleidoscope Festival of Light and Osijek Advent Tram - which is visited by almost 15,000 people each season. Christmas lights extend down European Avenue, passing some of the city's most grandiose Austro-Hungarian architecture. Thereafter, the trail comes 'off road' and takes you through the trees of King Tomislav Park. Next, Tvrđa assumes the focal point of Advent, with a Winter Lookout on the roof of the Cultural Centre, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Sokol ice rink and the tallest Ferris Wheel in Croatia being key highlights.

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If you want to read more about Osijek, see the Total Croatia guide here. And, if you want to keep up with news from Osijek, bookmark Total Croatia News's Osijek pages here

grada.jpgPhoto from Osijek Advent 2020 © TZ Grad Osijek

Thursday, 2 December 2021

From Cooking to Sending Wages Home, How Osijek Nepalese Residents Live

December the 2nd, 2021 - There are thousands of foreign workers from distant countries outside of both the EU and the rest of Europe living and working here in Croatia. Slavonia is home to many of them, and we're going to take a quick look at just how Osijek Nepalese residents living and working in that Eastern Croatian city live.

As RTL/Sib.hr writes, large numbers of Indians, Filipinos, Thais and many other foreigners are currently working in Croatia. In the City of Osijek, for example, is home to as many as 80 Nepalese nationals. Their homeland lies a distant 6000 kilometres from "Kruasija", as they call this country, but even without mountains and temples to speak of in flat Slavonia, Osijek Nepalese residents still somehow feel quite at home.

They manage to save part of their salaries and send it home, too, as is a common practice in such cultures where taking care of family is paramount. Croatian reporter Tin Kovacic found out all about how these Osijek Nepalese residents live, what they eat and just how they find life in the often overlooked Eastern part of the country.

If you type in Nepal on Google, you will see that you need to travel 6,000 kilometres (and a half) of the globe to arrive there from Slavonia. These 80 Nepalese nationals did just that, but in the opposite direction. They travelled half the world to get a job in an Osijek company that produces plastic packaging. They came legally through an agency and they pay for their health insurance, their pensions, all of their taxes and earn a living. This is what their work day looks like on the production line:

"I work here for about eight hours a day. It's not hard," Dilbach says.

They have a completely equal status with their 500 fellow Croatian nationals working here.

"They're very valuable workers. They want to help us. They're good work colleagues," says Aleksandra Peric, who is from Osijek.

After work, they like to walk around the city, which is where Tin got better acquainted with these Osijek Nepalese residents, who switched their climate for a home along the Drava. Osijek and Croatia have not been unknown places to them for the past three years.

Sunil Bam says:

"My friends have been to Croatia before. We talked about it and corresponded. They told me that Croatia is a good country. If you want to come here, Croatia is the best place."

In that Asian country, they are mainly engaged in agriculture, and Nepal continues to be one of globe's poorest countries. The average salary there is around 1,300 kuna per month, and here they have all of their accommodation and food paid for, and they earn around 5,500 kuna each month. A handsome increase.

"Oh yeah, we get more money here than we would back home. And every month when we get paid, we send a portion of it back home to our families," Bam says. For some, the plan is to earn enough and return to Nepal, and for some, to bring their family here and stay and live and work in Croatia permanently, as it seems the Slavonian temperament suits them best.

"Yes, I love the people here. They're very friendly and polite," says Manoj Achary.

Slavonian food is not foreign to them either, he adds, although they still like to cook their own traditional chicken and rice. The Bam confirmed that all food and accommodation is provided by their employer, but despite that, they still love to cook their own Nepalese dishes that they know so well. They have, however, tried some Slavonian food, comically describing ''something that looks like sausage.''

These Osijek Nepalese residents also know how to make a good lunch, according to Achary:

"We come into town and we drink your beer. Then we go to the Drava river, then we head back home,'' said Achary, who said he has grown to like local beer a lot. They naturally have the most problems with the notoriously difficult Croatin language, but they are attending Croatian classes and have mastered the basics. In order to get along as well as possible, they founded the Association of Friends of Nepal. The City of Osijek is also helping them out, organising various gatherings through the local plan for the integration of migrants, and even though they prefer volleyball and cricket, they've visited the Osijek Football Club.

For more, make sure to check out our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Happy Birthday Osijek: Time to Tell the Truth about Slavonia Full of Life

December 2, 2021 - Happy Birthday to Osijek! Enough of Zagreb ignoring eastern Croatia, it is time to tell the world the truth about Slavonia Full of Life. 

One of the many paradoxes of this wonderful country - for me at least - is the relationship Zagreb and the rest of the country has with Slavonia and eastern Croatia (for ease of reading purposes, I will use Slavonia to refer to Osijek - Baranja, and Vukovar - Srijem counties in this article).

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Every November 18, Facebook profile photos all over the country and the diaspora are changed to remember and honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice on the anniversary of the fall of Vukovar. All the politicians and thousands of Croats from all over the country head to the Hero City to pay their respects. It is an intense and emotional day, one which I documented in 2019 in Vukovar Remembrance Day Through the Eyes of a Foreign Resident.

But come November 19 and Vukovar - and the east - is forgotten for another 364 days until November 18 comes around again. 

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Despite bearing the brunt of the Serb onslaught in the Homeland War, and despite so many promises from politicians over the years, it seems to me that Slavonia has been treated like an embarrassing handicapped cousin that is best kept out of the limelight and gently ignored. Acknowledged only when necessary. 

And not just by the politicians. 

I have been genuinely shocked at how few of my Croatian friends have ever been to Slavonia, including those among the 200,000 Croats who go skiing abroad each year (the point here is not about skiing, but having the income to travel). And I am even more shocked at how little many of them know about eastern Croatia. Simple questions such as...

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What is the capital of Baranja?

Can you name three famous buildings in eastern Croatia, not including the  Vukovar Water Tower?

Where is the cradle of Indo-European civilisation?

Which Croatian wine was served at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, as well as the weddings of Princes Willliam and Harry?

... have been met with largely blank stares when I asked friends in Zagreb. 

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Slavonia is portrayed in the media as a sad place of mass emigration, struggling to move on from the war, where good news rarely exists. For many Croats, the whole of eastern Croatia is a blur associated with the aftermath  of war, emigration, and economic stagnation.  

Next week, during my panel discussion, Storytelling and the Nomad Movement, at Digital Nomad Week based out of Bali, I will be announcing the launch of our new CROMADS platform, which connects Croatia's limitless authentic experiences to digital nomads and tourists, all over Croatia, 12 months a year. As part of the preparations for the CROMADS platform, I took Steve Tsentserensky to eastern Croatia for a 6-day tour of Croatia's two most easternmost counties. 

Steve is a very talented American writer and videographer who was one of the first to receive the Croatian digital nomad permit. His promotion of Croatia has been relentless ever since, including this viral video on the digital nomad lifestyle in Croatia on CNBC News, which has already attracted over 300,000 views.  He has also just been announced as the Zagreb Special Guest Digital Nomad Ambassador for 2021. Steve had absolutely no clue about eastern Croatia and so was in a similar position as many locals here in Croatia. 

I contacted the tourist board directors of Osijek-Baranja and Vukovar-Srijem counties, Ivana Juric and Rujana Busic Srpak, and explained the mission to film the very best of the east for CROMADS. They kindly agreed to organise a 6-day itinerary for us. Steve will have a video report of the trip, including some truly epic drone footage, later in the month. But as today is Osijek's special day, let's take a tour of Slavonia Full of Life, the reality. 

Day 1 - Zagreb to Ilok

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06:13 Zagreb, Day One. 6 days, 1 Yank, 1 camera. The mission - to discover if there is life in Eastern Croatia in November. #Ajmo Slavonia, make me proud and show us what you've got. With Steve Tsentserensky #CROMADS

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Our first stop was the easternmost point of Croatia, which is actually closer to Zagreb than Split. Ilocki Podrum and its phenomenal vineyards are the gateway to Western Europe in Ilok. And where else in the world can you hold three bottles of the same wine what was served at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, as well as the weddings of both Prince William and Prince Harry? Learn more about the magic of Ilocki Podrum in this TCN visit a couple of years ago.

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The place to stay is the magnificent Principovac Estate, which is perched on a hill and overlooking the endless vineyards. 

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And there was just enough time after an excellent wine sampling to brush up on my golfing skills before dark. 

Day 2 - Vucedol, Ovcara, Vukovar, Otocki Virovi and Vinkovci

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Did you know that the cradle of Indo-European civilisation was in eastern Croatia, and that there is an award-winning museum built into the location? Learn more about incredible Vucedol on this TCN 2019 visit

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Very close by and a much more recent memorial at Ovcara, to the victims of the 1991 massacre of around 260 patients of the Vukovar Hospital, who were transported to Ovcara once Vukovar was conquered, tortured and murdered. The bullets in the floor are but one poignant reminder.  

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The Vukovar Water Tower is a national symbol of resistance and pride. While the exterior remains untouched, the interior has been renovated, and the viewing point at the top is a popular attraction, as well as giving outstanding views of the city, the Danube and across to Vojvodina in Serbia.  

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A vegetarian when the Slavonian diet would allow it, Asian vegetable wok noodles were a pleasant surprise for Steve at the outstanding Lola in the centre of Vukovar. 

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And then for something completely different - a journey into the classroom back in nature, as we headed into the forest to the recently opened Otocki Virovi Bio-ecological education centre. Amazing carbon-neutral hotel, wellness and conference facility in the middle of the forest. I will be returning with the TCN crew for a teambuilding weekend in Spring. 

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You don't see many public telephones in Croatia these days, but here is one in Vinkovci, the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe, dating back some 8,300 years. Learn more in Vinkovci: 10 Things to Know about Europe's Oldest Town.

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Home to the oldest calendar in Europe, whose symbols adorn the main pedestrian street. Nice shot, Stevie T!

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And far from being dead, Vinkovci was full of life at the rockabilly bar Hang Loose that night. 

Day 3 - Vukovar Remembrance Day and Foreign Veterans BBQ at The White Boar

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November 18 is Vukovar Remembrance Day, now a national holiday. Some 50,000 people turned up for the 30th anniversary of the fall of Vukovar. 

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We inadvertently found ourselves on national television as we filmed. You can learn more about this very emotional and intense day in Vukovar Remembrance Day Through the Eyes of a Foreign Resident

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There is a very special event each year on November 18, as all the foreign veterans who fought for Croatia gather to remember and to catch up. 

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The barbecue is hosted each year by Vinkovci Yorkshireman Steve Gaunt, from his English pub, The White Boar, which is literally in a field in the middle of nowhere.

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From a portrait of Queen Elizabeth on the wall to veterans in uniform, Steve's face was priceless. He later described it as 'the most far-out bar experience of my life.' 

Fortunately, we had the good sense to leave early, as things got a little lively later on as the veterans retured for the night and the kids took over, as Steve's public information film showed (1 minute and worth watching to the end).  

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No tour of Slavonia would be complete without a visit to the man who has done more for tourism in Slavonia than the rest of us combined, and it was great to spend the night at the home of Goran Rihelj and his lovely wife, Mirjam. Great kulen! 

Day 4 - Dalj, Erdut and Osijek

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By now, the regional press had picked up the story of our visit, and the fact that I had invited anyone who wanted to meet and discuss tourism and our new CROMADS project to come to Pivnica Runda in Osijek.  

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But first we had to survive Day 4, which began in Dalj at the incredible Milutin Malinkovic Birthplace Museum.

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Dalj seemed to be full of secrets, with the Jasna Antunovic Winery next up. Jasna was not only apparently the first female-owned winery in Croatia, but also the 2017 Decanter winner of the best white wine in continental Croatia. 

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Some claim it is the largest wine barrel in the world in continuous use, over in Erdut. While I cannot confirm that, it would take me a day or two to work my way through the 75,000 litres of Grasevina contained therein.

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And for a winery with a water view, you could do worse than Ivo Brzica on the banks of the Danube. Among his several excellent wines, what I believe to be the only Vranac produced in Croatia. 

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Where else to go for a spot of lunch than the epic OPG Ethno Kuca Stari Dud?

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Unusual church fan? Head to Aljmas. 

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But Osijek was calling and after a fantastic walking tour of the town, I had to get to Pivnica Runda for 19:00. Would anyone show up, or would I be Billy No Mates?

They came.

They were magnificent.

Such passion, such ideas, such creativity. So Slavonia Full of Life. 

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All hosted by the King of Fun.  

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One immediate consequence of one conversation that evening was a very pleasant coffee with the parents (and dog Mali) or Osijek-born tennis star, Donna Vekic, at The Westin in Zagreb a few days later. A rather fabulous exchange of ideas, and it was very encouraging to learn the Vekic vision and investment plans for Osijek 

The walk home to the fortress was a little hazy, but Facebook confirms that the streets of Osijek were very much full of life way past midnight. 

In November.  

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And when you have old town accommodation of the quality of Maksimilian, you know your stay in Osijek will be perfect.

Day 5 - Baranja

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Day 5 - Baranja, and the perfect start with one of my all-time heroes, the legend that is Mario Romulic and his quite incredible Magical Forest project

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Always a strong vegetarian offer at the Romulic kitchen table.  

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Kopacki Rit Nature Park, one of the most important wetlands in Europe. Learn more in the TC Kopacki Rit in a Page guide.

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Every dirt track in Baranja seems to lead to its own story. 30 years ago, Tito's former villa in Tikves hosted the final meeting between Milosevic and Tudjman in April 1991. Next year, the villa reopens as a presentation and education centre.

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Day 5 was significant as it was the first day of the tour where we somehow managed to avoid alcohol until after midday. 

And then... Belje.

The Belje vineyards went on for days, with grapes left on the vines by the viewing point, so that visitors could sample them. 

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All this wine was making us hungry. Next stop, one of the finest institutions in all Croatia - Baranjska Kuca in Karanac.  

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A little slice of Slavonia Full of Life, Baranja style. 

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Two of the most dangerous men on the planet, with one of the best tour agencies, Kulen Travel.  

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As far as war memorials go, Batina is right up there with the very best, overlooking the Danube, Hungary and Serbia.  

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But Baranja was not finished with us yet. 

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There was one more stop before we could return to Osijek.  

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And yes, another example of Slavonia Full of Life, the wonderful Josic wine tasting experience in Zmajevac. 

And then the Osijek fun began...

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Over breakfast that morning, a British businessman told us about a great new Asian and sushi place that had opened in the old town. We agreed to meet for dinner at Franz Koch, especially as he promised to bring his business partner, the legend that is Srdjan Kovacevic of Orqa. 

Together with Steve, they all droned on about drones until I asked how we could put their drone technology and contacts with the best drone pilots in the world to good use to promote tourism in Slavonia.

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Two gin and tonics later, and the concept of Danube Drone Days, with the world's leading drone pilots coming to Osijek, was born. 

Stay tuned.   

Slavonia Full of Life, the nighttime edition. 

Day 6 - Vukovar and Djakovo

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Our final day, and another rollercoaster. We changed the schedule to go back to Vukovar, as we needed to video the hospital museum for our CROMADS project, something that was clearly impossible on November 18, due to all the dignitaries from Zagreb.  

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The other reason to return to Vukovar was to offer this young lady a part-time job with CROMADS. Katarina was our excellent guide, and she will be helping us build the eco-system of excellence in eastern Croatia. Her first task as TCN was an interview - The Realities of Life as a Vukovar Tour Guide.

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There was just one stop between us and Zagreb, and it was another mind-blower - Djakovo. When Queen Elizabeth II visited the Lipizzaner Stud Farm back in 1972, Tito apparently built an asphalt road, so the locals were very happy. No such luck with my visit, but we had a ton of fun.

Djakovo Cathedral by Steve Tsntserensky, with a little help from a drone. 

One of the dangerous chaps from Kulen Travel stood between us and freedom.

"We just have one more surprise for you," said Domagoj over lunch. 

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Ah, yes, an excellent lunch at Bistro Loora, which was packed, with not a seat available.  

And the surprise?

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What else but a Slavonian picnic? 

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And some quite extraordinary craft gin in an orchard with a magnificent cathedral view.  

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Steve and I compared before and after photographs.  

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And as I dropped Steve back to where it all began in central Zagreb, I could not help wonder why we don't hear about any of this. 

Slavonia was beyond magnificent. Osijek was MUCH more alive than Split or any other city on the Adriatic coast in November. 

This region is FABULOUS and much closer to Zagreb than Dalmatia, and yet very few people I know have actually visited. 

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It is time to change that and to Make Osijek Great Again. 

I genuinely think we will not have to try too hard. 

So happy birthday Osijek, and may you celebrate your day in style. 

My birthday wish for you is that Zagreb lets you breathe, celebrates your magnificence, and starts to put meaningful investment your way to accelerate the process of growth. 

My heartfelt thanks to the many of you who contributed what was arguably one of the best weeks of my 18 years in Croatia. 

In Slavonia.

In November. 

I tried to put my finger on what it was that that made the Slavonian experience so exceptional, apart from the people, and I think it is this:

Nobody who makes the effort to visit Slavonia ever comes home disappointed. 

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Croatian Cup Quarterfinals: Osijek Wins on Penalties, Rijeka Knocks Out Dinamo for Semis

December 1, 2021 - The Croatian Cup quarterfinals came to an end on Wednesday as Osijek topped Slaven Belupo on penalties and Rijeka knocked out Dinamo 3:1 at Maksimir to secure their spots in the semifinals. 

Osijek became the third semifinalist of this season's Croatian Cup on Wednesday, beating Slaven Belupo 5:4 on penalties after no goals were scored in 120 minutes at City Garden Stadium. 

Although there were no goals, this quarterfinal match was full of events, as both teams missed a penalty during regulation time and both finished the match with 10 players in extra time. 

In the 94th minute, Žaper received a direct red card, and in the 108th minute, Kvržić was booked for his second yellow card. 

During the penalty shootout, Belupo was first to gain the advantage after Osijek captain Škorić shook the crossbar, but Goda missed immediately after. In the sixth round, Zirdum hit the crossbar, and Daku was precise for Osijek to push them into the top four.

Osijek thus joined Gorica and Hajduk, which reached the quarterfinals on Tuesday. Gorica beat Istra 1961 on penalties, and Hajduk defeated Lokomotiva 6-3 in Zagreb. 

Dinamo and Rijeka met in the last quarterfinal match at Maksimir on Wednesday. 

Obregon scored Rijeka's first goal in the 27th minute for the 0:1 lead. Josip Drmić scored three minutes later to make it 0:2 for Rijeka at the half. 

Dinamo couldn't score until the 73rd minute when Marko Tolić gave the home team hope for 1:2. 

Dinamo could not equalize even in the nearly 8 minutes of stoppage time added by the referee, and after putting in a last-minute effort, it was Rijeka to secure the last Croatian Cup semifinal spot with a goal in the 98th minute for 1:3. 

Rijeka, Gorica, Osijek, and Hajduk will fight in the Croatian Cup semifinals in the spring of 2022.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Monday, 29 November 2021

HNL Round 17 Recap: Hajduk Tops Istra 4:0, Wins for Osijek, Rijeka, Dinamo

November 29, 2021 - The 17th round of the Croatian First League was held from November 26 to 28, 2021. This round saw Osijek, Rijeka, Dinamo, and Hajduk record victories, keeping the top of the standings tight. Here's our HNL round 17 recap. 

Osijek v. Lokomotiva (2:1)

Osijek and Lokomotiva opened the 17th round on Friday, November 26, 2021, at City Garden Stadium in front of 1,083 fans. 

Kulenovic put Lokomotiva in the lead with a goal in the 9th minute for 0:1, though Nejasmic equalized for 1:1 in the 40th. Lokomotiva's Ibrahim was booked for his second yellow in the 72nd minute, forcing them to play with a man down for the remainder of the match. Daku scored for Osijek to put them in the lead (2:1). Lokomotiva had another player sent off the pitch in the final minutes of stoppage time as Cojak was shown his second yellow. Fiolic scored in the 6th minute of added time for the final 3:1. 

 

Osijek is currently in first place with 34 points (and one game less), while Lokomotiva is in 6th with 22. 

Hajduk v. Istra 1961 (4:0)

Hajduk and Istra played the second Friday match on November 26, 2021, at Poljud in front of 4,560 fans. 

Ljubicic scored Hajduk's first goal for 1:0 in the 11th minute. A Fossati rocket hit with the outside of his boot made it 2:0 in the 27th minute. Krovinovic increased Hajduk's lead to 3:0 in the 70th, and Livaja got his chance to score for the final 4:0 in the 2nd minute of stoppage time. 

 

Hajduk is currently in 4th place with 30 points (and one game less), while Istra is in 8th with 15 (and one game less).

Hr. Dragovoljac v Gorica (0:1)

Dragovoljac and Gorica met in Zagreb on Saturday, November 27, 2021, in front of 105 fans. 

The only goal of the match came in the 70th minute when Lovric scored for the Gorica win. 

 

Dragovoljac is currently in the last place with 7 points, while Gorica is in 5th with 25. 

Slaven Belupo v. Rijeka (1:2)

Slaven Belupo and Rijeka met in Koprivnica on Saturday, November 27, 2021, in front of 387 fans. 

Belupo's Krstanovic scored an own goal for the Rijeka lead in the 51st minute. Drmic increased Rijeka's lead to 0:2 in the 70th. Caimacov gave Belupo some hope with a goal in the 74th minute for 1:2, but Hadzic missed a penalty and their chance to equalize in the 86th. 

 

Belupo is currently in 9th place with 13 points, while Rijeka is in 2nd with 33 (and one game less). 

Sibenik v. Dinamo (1:2)

Sibenik and Dinamo closed out the 17th round on Sunday, November 28, 2021, in Sibenik in front of 831 fans. 

Ivanusec scored in the 19th minute for 0:1 Dinamo at the half. Jakolis equalized for Sibenik in the 75th minute, but a Peric own goal gave Dinamo the 1:2 win. 

 

Sibenik is currently in 7th place with 18 points, while Dinamo is in 3rd with 31 (and two games less). 

You can see the HNL standings HERE.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Saturday, 27 November 2021

2021 Osijek Advent Program Promises More Holiday Magic than Ever

November 27, 2021 - The 2021 Osijek Advent continues its responsible policy and unique concept in which Advent is not just held in one place but is a walking experience through different locations.

The size of a city is not defined by the number of kilometers or the number of inhabitants. Instead, the size of a city is measured by the size of its heart, the strength in its spirit, and the kindness of its people. Osijek has always been big enough to fulfill the needs, desires, dreams of its citizens and small enough to make them feel safe, comfortable, and intimate. It is also big enough to organize the longest walk around the city and small enough to adapt the Advent celebration to the current situation.

Advent, conceived as a movement around festive locations, revived Osijek, showed the character and spirit of the city, and memories of better times, when daily walks and full streets were the main motives for all generations.

This year, Osijek Advent continues its responsible policy. It continues to develop its unique concept in which Advent is not just one place, but an experience of the city by walking through different locations, but significantly enriched not only by new hidden areas but also by craftspeople and caterers. Given the epidemiological situation, which affects the production plan daily, the organizers of Osijek Advent, the City of Osijek, and Osijek-Baranja County, this year focus on space as an essential factor in the Advent program. This means that Osijek Advent is modular and ready for all epidemiological options and will indeed not be canceled under any circumstances.

Thus, the festive event begins by lighting the Advent wreath in front of St. Peter and Paul Co-cathedral by the Archbishop of Đakovo-Osijek Đuro Hranić, on Sunday, November 28, at 18:00 with a special program before Sunday Holy Mass.

As Osijek celebrates its birthday in early December, the Advent festivities will be part of the program for Osijek City Day, on Thursday, December 2, when Osijek will light up in festive attire and lure the first walkers to the streets in the evening. The holiday lighting will be attended by high-ranking guests who will take part in the Formal Session at the Croatian National Theater for City Day.

The famous locations will be enriched and supplemented with new surprises. Thus, in addition to the recognizable and traditional Christmas tram, which is visited by almost 15,000 people in the season, the city center, and Ante Starčević Square, will be further enlivened and illuminated. The Adventure Road continues through the magical Capuchin across the icy Sakuntala. It again takes visitors along the most beautiful, dreamy European Avenue to King Tomislav Park, the most visited location last year. This year will feature additional catering and music programs.

The Advent continues to Rondel, from where the road has been significantly expanded. A new location on the Advent map is the Cultural Center. In addition to the Christmas cinema and a diverse Christmas program, a unique point of the Advent walk will be the Winter Lookout on the roof of the Cultural Center. The Museum of Fine Arts will open its doors to all this year's walkers, and the Sokol ice rink will once again enrich the atmosphere. 

In addition to the Advent offer at crucial locations, several caterers across the city will join in the Advent magic at their facilities. 

A special surprise in mid-December will be a Ferris wheel, the biggest in Croatia during Advent!

With this year's approach, Osijek shows how even in epidemiologically uncertain conditions, it can organize the biggest and brightest and yet safest Advent in which the wider city center will be surrounded by 10 kilometers of lights.

Christmas and New Year's events will last until January 7, 2022.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

First Free Public Tennis Court in Croatia with Wimbledon-Like Grass Opens in Osijek

November 23, 2021 - Donna Vekić and her family have helped to open the first completely free public tennis court in Croatia, in her hometown of Osijek, with Wimbledon-like grass that flew in from England! 

Donna Vekić's father welcomed the end of the Courmayeur final in Italy with many emotions. It was Donna's first title in four years, the first since knee surgery. Their long-lasting hug after Donna's triumph against Dane Clare Tauson said it all, reports Sportske Novosti.

"I won't even hide it. At that moment, I wanted not to show until the end even though it was difficult because I am a part of Donna's entire career, especially the last two years, and I know how much effort, will, and desire Donna has, how much work has been invested in all this, how many difficulties with injuries she had this year. I know how much this tournament meant to her, which will surely give her extra confidence for further work, and that is the biggest gain for me," said father Igor Vekić at the beginning of November.

The 2021 season was more demanding for Donna than before, and she was forced to take a break for three and a half months. With the triumph in Courmayeur, she jumped from 97th to 67th place in the WTA ranking, and for a short-term goal, she wants to be among the 20 best tennis players in the world.

"Donna's career has been long; at the age of 16, she entered the top 100 in the world, and after so many years in professional sports, it was hard to expect that such an injury would not happen. This jump in the WTA ranking is just a step on the road where Donna wants to be. She doesn't just want to enter the top 20; her goals are much bigger," Igor Vekić assures.

The coronavirus pandemic in the spring prevented a humanitarian tennis spectacle in Osijek organized by the Vekić family; a tournament called the Premier Tennis Show, the first edition held last year when the pandemic stopped tennis for several months around the world. The pandemic postponed the tournament but did not interfere with plans.

At the foot of the School of Civil Engineering and Geodesy in Osijek, the first public tennis court in Croatia was built, completely free to use. Its construction was financed partly through a humanitarian auction in which the items were donated by Roger Federer, Luka Modrić, Janica Kostelić, Sandra Perković, Goran Ivanišević, and Donna Vekić. 

Had Donna had such an opportunity in her tennis beginnings, it would indeed have meant a lot to her.

"This was exactly one of the reasons why we want to transfer Donna's result and success at the global level to the local level, to Osijek, where she started her tennis career. We wanted to provide the best possible infrastructure so that children can fall in love with tennis and so that children can play tennis and sports, and later show interest and talent for something more from time to time. Still, the goal is to work on popularizing it for children to get involved in tennis as much as possible," explains Igor Vekić.

Five months later, a public tennis court, the construction of which cost 450,000 kuna with Wimbledon-like grass from England, fulfilled expectations.

"The court has completely fulfilled its purpose; it is full, reserved. It is used by children, the youth, sometimes older players. What fills our hearts is that the court is completely free to use, and everyone can try it," says Vekić.

"The court operates from 8 am to 10 pm. The booking procedure is very simple, and you can book on the website premiertennisosijek.com up to five days in advance. You get a code that enters the system when entering the court and under controlled conditions uses certainly the most beautiful and best public tennis court in Europe," Igor Vekić adds.

Children from the Klasje Osijek Community Service Center, who receive free tennis education, are regularly on the courts.

"Through the humanitarian action, one of the goals was to build a public tennis court, but not only to stop there but to provide education to children, residents of the Klasje Home and now for a few months I can say that this cooperation is going very well. Davor Grgić from Donna's tennis team conducts education with his coaches, and the children are satisfied, everything is going as we imagined for these children to one day be able to use the court on their own," explains Igor Vekić

The next steps in popularizing tennis in Osijek are self-imposed, providing free tennis education to all interested parties.

"The next step, given this interest, is to provide everyone else with completely free education in terms of improving their game, working on the technique at the agreed time in two categories, children up to 14 years, but also adult recreationists who want to improve their game - we will make it possible," says Vekić.

They will also have a place to show their tennis skills because the first public tennis court in Croatia will not remain the last. The plan is to make a total of four in Osijek, with four different courts.

"We have partners in the city and county. For example, at the tennis court opening, the prefect and the mayor said what we wanted to hear: they would be our partners in further developing public tennis courts in Osijek. Our goal is to make four courts in different parts of the city with one special feature. Namely, we want to make four courts with all four Grand Slam surfaces," reveals Vekić.

Two years ago, the idea of a tennis academy was promoted. 

"We are completely ready. We have the "know-how," and in this case, we are waiting for the moves of investors who will get involved with our program, our knowledge, and professional staff so that we can work on education and popularizing tennis," said Vekić.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Monday, 22 November 2021

HNL Round 16 Recap: Hajduk Beats Rijeka at Rujevica, Dinamo-Osijek 1:1

November 22, 2021 - The 16th round of the Croatian First League was held from November 19 to 21, 2021. This round saw two of the biggest derbies in Croatian football, as Hajduk topped Rijeka at Rujevica and Dinamo and Osijek drew at Maksimir. Here is our HNL round 16 recap. 

Hr. Dragovoljac v. Slaven Belupo (1:2)

Dragovoljac and Belupo opened the 16th round on Friday, November 19, 2021, in Zagreb. 

Bosec opened the match for an early Belupo lead at 0:1 in the 3rd minute. Krstanovic increased their lead with a penalty in the 10th minute for 0:2. Majstorovic gave Dragovoljac some hope with a goal in the 73rd minute, but after a Lukic red card in the 87th minute, the match ended 1:2 for Belupo. 

 

Dragovoljac is currently in the last place with 7 points, while Belupo is in 9th with 13. 

Dinamo v. Osijek (1:1)

Dinamo and Osijek met on Saturday, November 20, 2021, at Maksimir Stadium. 

Fiolic put Osijek ahead in the 16th minute for 0:1 at the half. Petkovic equalized in the 80th minute for 1:1, which was the final score. 

 

Dinamo is currently in 3rd place with 28 points (and two games less), while Osijek is in 1st with 31 (and one game less).

Istra 1961 v. Sibenik (3:4) 

Istra and Sibenik met in Pula on November 20, 2021. 

Jakolis put Sibenik ahead in the 38th minute for 0:1, before Marin scored the equalizer 6 minutes later for 1:1 at the half. Beljo missed a penalty for Istra in the 59th minute, and Sibenik retook the lead thanks to Delic two minutes later (1:2). Delic scored again in the 72nd minute for 1:3, before Beljo redeemed himself and scored for 2:3 in the 82nd. Miskovic equalized 5 minutes later for 3:3, but it was Jakolis to score the winning goal for Sibenik in the 7th minute of stoppage time for the final 3:4. 

 

Istra is in 8th place with 15 points (and one game less), while Sibenik is in 7th with 18. 

Gorica v. Lokomotiva (2:2)

Gorica and Lokomotiva met in Velika Gorica on Sunday, November 21, 2021. 

Fruk put Gorica ahead in the 2nd minute for 1:0. Prsir increased Gorica's lead to 2:0 in the 24th. Ibrahim gave Lokomotiva hope before halftime, scoring in the 34th minute for 1:2. Pivaric scored the equalizer for Lokomotiva in the 60th minute and the final 2:2. 

 

Gorica is currently in 6th place with 22 points, while Lokomotiva is in 5th with 22. 

Rijeka v. Hajduk (2:3)

Rijeka and Hajduk closed out the 16th round with the Adriatic Derby at Rujevica on Sunday, November 21, 2021. 

After his first goal was called offside, Livaja scored just before the halftime whistle to put Hajduk ahead 0:1. Drmic equalized in the 53rd minute for 1:1. Rijeka was awarded a penalty in the 79th minute, which Muric scored for 2:1. Hajduk followed suit with a penalty five minutes later. Livaja was solid for 2:2. Hajduk had a corner in the match's final play, which found Mlakar's head for the 2:3 Hajduk win. 

 

Rijeka is currently in 2nd place with 30 points (and one game less), while Hajduk is in 4th with 27 (and one game less). 

You can see the full HNL table HERE.  

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

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