Thursday, 25 August 2022

Hajduk Drops Out of UEFA Europa Conference League After Play-off Defeat to Villarreal

August 25, 2022 - Hajduk has dropped out of the UEFA Europa Conference League on a 2-6 aggregate to Villarreal. The Split club lost 0:2 at Poljud on Thursday night. 

Hajduk and Villarreal met in the second leg of the Conference League play-off at a sold-out Poljud stadium on Thursday. In the first match, Villarreal won 4:2 in Valencia, meaning Hajduk needed to score three goals to have a chance. 

Villarreal is one of the best European teams and was certainly the favorite to move ahead. The Spanish club is last year's Champions League semi-finalist, and Europa League champions the season before that, knocking out Dinamo Zagreb on their way to the title.

Hajduk had met Spanish clubs five times so far in European competitions but failed to move past them. 

"It will be a difficult test because Villarreal likes to control the game and have possession of the ball. We have to be patient and focused for the whole 90 minutes and pay attention to small details," Hajduk coach Valdas Dambrauskas said before the match. 

"In that beautiful stadium, we expect a good atmosphere in which we will try to manage the match," said Villarreal coach Unai Emery. 


HAJDUK: Kalinić - Mikanović, Awaziem, Elez, Melnjak - Grgić, Fossati - Sahiti, Krovinović, Biuk - Livaja

VILLARREAL: Reina - Kiko, Mandi, Cuenca, Pedraza - Chukwueze, Parejo, Coquelin, Baena - Lo Celso, Nicolas

Match report

Villarreal had their first attack in the 2nd minute, which went out for a goal kick. Melnjak played a hospital ball to a Villarreal player at the top of the box. Kalinic luckily saved the shot, but Hajduk fouled in the next play. A free-kick awarded to Villarreal found the head of Baena, who went over the post. 

It was a shaky first five minutes for Hajduk, who was playing nervously. 

A quick counter which started from Awaziem found Sahiti on the right and went out for Hajduk's first corner. The ball was played out by the Villarreal defense and sent back in by Sahiti, who found Livaja's head. Marko just missed near post. 

Another attack for Hajduk came in the 10th minute and Fossati managed to get a shot off which was blocked. 

Another shaky instance in the Hajduk defense came a minute later and was luckily cleared by Melnjak. 

Another brilliant attack by Hajduk in the 14th minute saw Livaja get a shot off which was deflected out for a corner. Krovinovic found Livaja again, whose one-touch shot went over the goal.  

Sahiti dribbled through the Villarreal defense in the next play and shot at the keeper. Livaja tried lobbing the keeper from the halfway line in the 16th minute.  And he hit another rocket that went just wide of the far post in the next play. 

Mikanovic was shown a yellow card in the 19th minute. 

Villarreal tried a quick counter in the 22nd minute but shot straight at Kalinic. Hajduk countered back and Biuk got a shot off which was deflected to Reina. 

Hajduk was hungry and had another corner in the 25th minute, followed by another after that. 

Villarreal started to possess the ball and tried to move into the box. Nicolas' fancy footwork couldn't move past Hajduk's defense. 

A Hajduk free kick in the 30th minute was played short to Biuk on the left. The young midfielder cut into the middle and fell for a foul, but the ref said to play on. Hajduk's next attack was called offside. 

A dangerous free kick for Villarreal in the 34th minute was taken in front of the corner spot. Luckily the ball went straight to Kalinic. 

But just a few minutes later, Pedraza had his chance, playing around Hajduk's defense with no one in the block. He shot far post into Kalinic's goal for 0:1 Villarreal. Hajduk's hope had dwindled. 

A Livaja free kick in the 41st minute was taken from about 30 meters out and went just wide of the post. The first half ended 0:1 for Villarreal. 

Villarreal made one sub to start the second half - Capoue went on for Coquelin. Hajduk did not make any changes. 

A dangerous chance for Villarreal came in the 47th minute, which was blocked by the Hajduk defense. A standout save by Kalinic in the 51st minute stopped Villarreal from going ahead by two goals. 

Another attack for Villarreal in the next minute went out for a corner. Hajduk managed to clear any dangerous plays and tried to calmly move the ball into Villarreal's half but could not get a shot off. 

In the next attack, Chukwueze's shot slipped through Kalinic's hands and into the goal for 0:2 Villarreal. Hajduk would now need 4 goals to bring the match to extra time. 

Villarreal made substitutions in the 58th minute - Moreno came on for Jackson and Morales for Lo Celso. 

Hajduk made their first subs in the 59th minute - Lovrencsics came on for Mikanovic and Mlakar for Sahiti. 

Fossati was subbed off for Vukovic in the 65th minute.  

Mlakar had a great chance to score a minute later but just missed the far post. 

Krovinovic was fouled right on the corner of the box in the 71st minute. The same player took the free kick, which went out for a goal kick. 

Hajduk had a free kick and a corner in the 75th minute without a chance for a goal. 

Pau Torres came on for Pedraza and Foyth for Kiko in the 79th minute. Colina came on for Melnjak and Simic for Elez in the same minute. 

There were no dangerous chances for either team in the final 10 minutes. The ref added 3 minutes of stoppage time, in which no one scored.

Hajduk has thus dropped out of the UEFA Europa Conference League. 

Post-match comments 

Villarreal coach Unai Emery

"We played against a team that is good today but also has a rich past. The atmosphere created by the fans was special, and we enjoyed it. I'm sorry when a team like Hajduk is left out of the European competition. With this kind of atmosphere and fans, it deserves to be in the European competition. I have to repeat that in the first game, we made several mistakes, and now we managed to improve some things that we did in the first game at a lower level. This is Europe; we have to be concentrated and satisfied with this kind of game."

Hajduk coach Valdas Dambrauskas

"I can't fault the players. We were ready and better than in the first game. The difference in class between us and Villarreal is too big, especially in two games. We turn to Osijek, which for us as the final, will not be easy, but we have to focus. We showed a level we can be proud of, but we have to improve," said Dambrauskas.

"A big thank you to the fans for their support during and after the match. It's a big responsibility. I'm not afraid to say it, and I know it sounds like a cliché, but we really have the best fans in Europe. We really do. Someone compares us to Napoli and Marseille, but we are not even the first in Croatia, we do not play in the European League nor the Conference League, and we have such support. The players and we are very proud to have this kind of support."

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Thursday, 18 August 2022

Tough Night for Hajduk as Villarreal Dominate in Conference League Play-off First Leg

August 18, 2022 - Villarreal dominates in the Conference League play-off first leg, beating Hajduk 4:2 in Spain. 

Villarreal and Hajduk met on Thursday in Valencia, Spain, for a spot in the Conference League group stage. 

Hajduk has been waiting 12 years for a spot in the group stage of a European competition. Tonight, they met last year's Champions League semi-finalist and Europa League champions the season before that, knocking out Dinamo Zagreb on their way to the title.

Villarreal had not seen defeat in their last ten games and recorded victories against Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, and Inter. Villarreal is led by Unai Emery, who managed Sevilla, PSG, and Arsenal before Villarreal. 

"Hajduk Split is a big name; it has a history, and it commands maximum respect and admiration. I know that. Kalinić, Simić, and Livaja, are players who have an international reputation and are recognized around the world. It is important for us to win. I talk about Hajduk to my players with great respect,'' Emery said before the game.

According to estimates, over a thousand Hajduk fans arrived in Valencia for Thursday night's match. 


Villarreal (4-4-2): Reina - De la Fuente, Mandi, Pau Torres, Pedraza - Chukwueze, Parejo, Capoue, Baena - Morales, Jackson

Hajduk(3-5-2): Kalinić - Elez, Borevković, Awaziem - Mikanović, Grgić, Krovinović, Sahiti, Melnjak - Biuk, Livaja

Match report

Villarreal had their first chance of the match already in the 2nd minute, but Chukuweze shot wide of the goal.

Not even a minute later, Hajduk countered and shocked Villarreal. Livaja found Stipe Biuk, who ran into the penalty area at the perfect time to put the ball into the back of the net for 0:1 Hajduk! 

Melnjak and Livaja played a one-two in the 7th minute, which saw Melnjak get a shot off, but it was saved by the Villarreal keeper Reina.

A dangerous situation in front of Kalinić's goal in the 10th minute, but Mikanović calmly played it out for a Villarreal corner.

Livaja was shown a yellow card in the 13th minute, which is his second in this play-off. 

Villarreal equalized in the 15th minute. Morales shot from 10 meters, checked Kalinic, and scored for 1:1. 

Three minutes later, it was 2:1 for Villarreal off of a Livaja own goal. 

A corner for Villarreal in the 22nd minute was cleared by the Hajduk defense.

Villarreal took control of the game and dangerously attacked Hajduk's half. Hajduk struggled to get possession of the ball.

Hajduk had a corner in the 28th minute. The play ended in Krovinovic crossing to Melnjak in the box, who played the keeper. Hajduk countered in the next minute and Krovinovic shot from 20 or so meters out after seeing Livaja was offside. Another shot went to Reina.

"Hajduceeee" was all you could hear from the Spanish stadium. The commentators said that "Villarreal may be dominating the game, but Torcida is dominating the stands."

Chukuweze tried finding Morales' head in the 34th minute, but his attempt went over the goal. Two minutes later, Hajduk's shaky defense allowed too much space for yet another goal. Morales scored 3:1 in the 36th minute. 

Mikanović tackled Morales on the edge of the penalty area in the 41st minute for a Villarreal free kick which went out for Hajduk's ball. 

Villarreal was just too good for Hajduk in the first half and totally controlled the game. Hajduk struggled to hold onto the ball and relied on quick counters to attack. 

A free kick was awarded for Hajduk in the 44th minute, which went off Villarreal for a Hajduk corner. One minute of stoppage time was added to the end of the half. Villarreal capitalized on a quick counter. Moreno found himself 1-on-1 with Kalinic to score for 4:1. 

The second half began without any changes. 

Hajduk held possession in the first few minutes, and Biuk's diagonal shot in the 47th minute was deflected for a Hajduk corner. 

Kalinic made a brilliant save on Baena's shot in the 54th minute. 

Hajduk's defense continued allowing too much space for Villarreal. 

Biuk again dribbled into the box and won a corner for Hajduk in the 60th minute. 

Pau Torres and Lo Celso entered for Pedraza and Moreno in the 62nd minute. 

Villarreal was dangerous again in the next few minutes, with a corner in the 65th minute. 

Hajduk made their first subs in the 69th minute - Lovrecsics came on for Mikanović and Mlakar for Sahiti. Morales was subbed off for Jackson in the 73rd minute. 

Two more changes for Hajduk came in the 78th minute - Fossati and Nikola Kalinic entered the match for Elez and Livaja.  

The result didn't matter - Torcida was still the loudest in the stadium. 

A minute after Kalinic was subbed on, he entered a nasty tackle with Mandi, resulting in what looked like a split-open cheek. The Hajduk player was covered in blood, and Atanasov was subbed on. Hajduk was awarded a penalty which Fossati scored for 4:2 Hajduk in the 85th minute. 

A free kick was awarded to Hajduk two minutes later, which went out for a corner. Hajduk had a few minutes left to get another goal and not concede one, which would be huge going into the match next week in Split. 

Krovinovic struck the near post with his left foot in the 89th minute. 

The ref added four minutes of stoppage time to the match. Neither team was able to score.

The return match will be played on Thursday, August 25, at a sold-out Poljud Stadium. 

Post-match comments

"The next game should be easier to prepare for. Players can only improve by playing games like this. It started great for us, but we were naive, and we could have reacted much better. I would have preferred that they didn't score goals like that. We will have to be better in Croatia," said Hajduk coach Dambrauskas.

"We wanted to have better coverage in the midfield because Villarreal is integrated into the middle and in the space. Awaziem is a very calm player with the ball. I think he played a pretty good game," said the Hajduk coach.

"You won't believe what I'm going to tell you, but when you watch the next game, the atmosphere will be completely different, and our mentality will be different. With God's help, anything can happen. We will focus on the next game, analyze the opponents and try to win."

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Thursday, 15 April 2021

Dinamo Drops Out of Europa League After Quarterfinal Loss to Villarreal

April 15, 2021 - Dinamo drops out of Europa League after losing to Villarreal in the return quarterfinal match on Thursday in Spain. 

Dinamo and Villarreal met in the Europa League quarterfinal return match on Thursday in Spain. The famous Spanish club won 1:0 in the first match seven days ago at Maksimir Stadium thanks to a penalty by Moreno.

Villarreal was the absolute favorite to move forward, but Dinamo went into the match with every intention of winning. At yesterday's press conference, Damir Krznar and Mislav Oršić openly said that the hosts were the favorites, but so was Tottenham, and that Dinamo had the right to hope and continue to dream the European dream.


VILLARREAL: Rulli - Foyth, Albiol, Pau Torres, Pedraza - Parejo, Capoue, Trigueros - Moreno, Alcacer, Chukuweze

DINAMO: Livaković - Ristovski, Lauritsen, Theophile, Gvardiol - Ademi, Jakić, Ivanušec, Majer, Oršić - Petković


Dinamo had a tough time finding their footing at the start of the match and only had their first real chance in the 11th minute. Villarreal proved to be too strong for the Croatian champion, and after hitting the post in the 24th minute, Chukuweze scored for 1:0 10 minutes later. Moreno increased Villarreal's lead to 2:0 just before the half for a 3:0 aggregate for the Spanish club.

Dinamo started the second half much better than the first. Majer was one-on-one with the keeper five minutes in, and Gvardiol found Oršić at the top of the box who just missed the far post minutes later. 

An epic save by Livakovic in the 66th gave Dinamo hope, and another Oršić far post rocket almost made it 2:1. 

But Oršić finally got his chance. Petković assisted the Dinamo star for 2:1 in the 75th minute! 

Oršić hit over the post when a free-kick was awarded to Dinamo just outside the box in the 87th minute. The referee added 3 minutes of extra time.

Dinamo thus says goodbye to this Europa League season after a historic run. 

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Thursday, 8 April 2021

Villarreal Tops Dinamo in Europa League Quarterfinal First Leg in Zagreb

April 8, 2021 - Villarreal tops Dinamo in the first leg of the Europa League quarterfinals in Zagreb (1:0).

After sensationally knocking out Tottenham in the last 16, Dinamo met Villarreal for the first quarterfinal match of the Europa League at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb on Thursday. 

However, Dinamo could not count on all of the stars that brought them success in the last round. Coach Damir Krznar announced before the match that Joško Gvardiol and attackers Bruno Petković and Mario Gavranović were injured.


Dinamo: Livaković - Ristovski, Theophile, Lauritsen, Gvardiol - Ademi, Jakić, Ivanušec, Majer, Oršić - Atiemwen

Villarreal: Rulli - Foyth, Albiol, Pau Torres, Pedraza - Capoue, Dani Parejo, Trigueros - Gerard Moreno, Chukwueze, Bacca


Villarreal had the first attempt of the match but Livakovic saved nearing the 7th minute. And it didn't take long for Dinamo to be dangerous, too. A Majer shot was difficult for the Villarreal keeper in the 10th minute, resulting in a corner. Atiemwen shot near post in the next play.

Villarreal had a few uneasy attacks in the 10 minutes that followed, but Livakovic was solid to keep the net clean for the Zagreb club.

An incredible play between Orsic and Atiemwen resulted in an offside goal in the 25th minute. Orsic had a Tottenham-style chance in the 33rrd but hit over the goal. Dinamo was certainly pressing Villarreal's defense.

Unfortunately, just a few minutes before halftime, the referee awarded Villarreal a penalty after Theophile's handball in the box. Moreno scored for the Spanish club to lead 0:1 at the half. 

Atiemwen threatened Villarreal's goal to start the second half, while a Gvardiol attempt 10 minutes late was saved.

Coach Krznar decided to risk Bruno Petkovic who was subbed on for Atiemwen in the 60th minute. Kastrati also replaced Jakic to boost the offense. Petkovic found Ristovski in the 68th minute but his shot was blocked.

Dinamo used its third substitution in the 71st minute - Leovac entered instead of Gvardiol.

In the 82nd minute, Dinamo made a double substitution - Majer and Oršić came out for Franjić and Tolić.

Dinamo was lucky Villarreal didn't increase their lead in the final minutes of the match as their backline remained solid. The match ended 0:1 for the Spanish side. 

Dinamo will visit Villarreal next Thursday in Spain at the same time. 

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