Croatians Around Europe *XXVII*
April 14, 2017
Luka Modrić was given the day off after playing against Bayern Munich midweek in Champions League with countryman Mateo Kovačić replacing him in a less competitive Real Madrid starting XI without Bale or Ronaldo. Kovačić played 89 minutes but did not impress offensively as his defensive duties overshadowed his play up the field. Spanish press gave him a 6.5 rating as “James and Isco did well in offense but did not have much to offer in defense. The whole burden fell on young Kovačić’s shoulder, who did just okay to hold the midfield together.” Real Madrid needed an injury time winner from Isco to scrape by Sporting Gijon 3-2. They remain three points and a game in hand on Barcelona.
Sporting Gijon’s Duje Čop scored the opening goal of the match against Real Madrid in the 14th minute when he came in sprinting toward goal to one-time a lobbed ball over the Madrid defense to beat goalie Francisco Casilla. However, Madrid was too much and Isco would steal the show on the day to deny Gijon any points.
Ivan Rakitić played the full 90 minutes for Barcelona on Saturday in a 3-2 win over Real Sociedad. Lionel Messi would score twice inside 40 minutes but Sociedad would not go away. Late in the game, Rakitić fired away multiple shots looking for an insurance goal but tagged one right at the keeper and the other wide of post. Barcelona are still keeping things tight in La Liga with the win. Alen Halilović came on in the 71st minute for Las Palmas as Marko Livaja played the full match up top in a 5-1 loss to Athletic Bilbao. Halilović has under performed since coming back to La Liga from Hamburg in the winter window.
Andrej Kramarić played the full match for Hoffenheim in a wild 5-3 win over Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday. Kramarić assisted on Hoffenheim’s final goal and had three shots, one of which hit the woodwork in yet another productive afternoon for the 25 year-old. Hoffenheim remain third in the Bundesliga, one point ahead of Borussia Dortmund with five matches left to play.
Tin Jedvaj picked up two yellow cards and was sent off as his Bayer Leverkusen side held on for a 0-0 draw against leaders Bayern Munich. Jedvaj had a solid match before he was shown his second yellow in the 59th minute, when he held back Thomas Muller and prevented him from getting on the end of a throughball. Leverkusen defended admirably down a man for the final half hour, and had some luck on their side as Bayern failed to convert several huge chances. This was Jedvaj’s second time in his career being sent off and he will be suspended for their next match. Leverkusen are 12th in the Bundesliga with five matches left to play.
Ante Rebić made an appearance off the bench for Eintracht Frankfurt in their 3-1 loss at Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. In an attacking move with his side down 2-1, Rebić came in for center-back Andersson Ordonez in the 56th minute. Rebić wasn’t able to make much of an impact, registering one shot off target and completing 12 passes. The loss leaves Frankfurt 10th in the Bundesliga, three points out of a Europa League spot with five matches to play.
Danijel Subašić started in net for AS Monaco as they stuck to their winning ways with a 2-1 win at home to 19th placed Dijon on Sunday. Subašić made four saves and will have liked to have done better on Dijon’s goal, where he initially made a good stop on a header, but then let the ball get away from him where Cedric Varrault snatched it to give his side the lead. Monaco has now won six straight in Ligue 1, as have PSG, leaving for an exciting stretch run for the title. With six matches to go, Monaco remain three points above the Parisians, and will have a very tricky tie at fourth place Lyon next Sunday.
Domagoj Vida played the full match for Dynamo Kyiv as they won 1-0 at third place Zorya on Sunday. The win all but secures 2nd place in the Ukrainian Premier League for Dynamo, who are 14 points clear of Zorya, and 11 behind Shakhtar.
Vedran Ćorluka returned from his hamstring injury for Lokomotiv Moscow in their 3-0 win on Sunday at relegation candidates Arsenal Tula. Ćorluka played the full match at the back with no issues, which is good news for Croatian fans. They are now four points out of the last Europa League position in 5th place.
Dejan Lovren played the full 90 minutes Sunday in a 1-0 clean sheet victory at West Brom. With the win, Liverpool remain in third place, which is an automatic Champions League berth for next season, although both Manchester clubs are right on their tail with games in hand. Lovren was given a poor rating of “6” as he was “very sloppy with his passing in the first half, and couldn’t dominate his area in the way his centre back partner did. That said it wasn’t a bad display from the Croatian, but Liverpool will be hoping for better in the future.” Liverpool only have five matches remaining in the season. Will Lovren and the Reds finish strong?