CROATIAN AROUND EUROPE *XXXIII*
May 4, 2012
Photo: AFP PHOTO / THOMAS KIENZLE
Stuttgart rallied from a 2-goal deficit to defeat Mario Mandžukić and Wolfsburg 3-2 in front of 58,500 at Mercedes Benz Arena on Saturday. Wolfsburg opened up the scoring in the 28th minute after Mario broke free on the right side and found Patrick Helmes with a cross right in front of the goal. Marco Russ doubled the score for the Wolves just after the hour mark. Just when it looked as if the Wolves would finish the season on a winning note, Stuttgart scored three times in five minutes to secure their 15th Bundesliga win of the season. Mandžukić started and played the full 90 minutes for Wolfsburg in the loss, coming closest to scoring in the 24th minute after failing to beat Stuttgart keeper Sven Ulreich on a one-on-one opportunity. The 25-year-old, former Dinamo Zagreb striker finished the season with 12 goals and 8 assists.
Borussia Dortmund celebrated their Bundesliga crown with a 4-0 romp on Freiburg on Saturday. Ivan Perišić came on for Shinji Kagawa just after the hour mark after the game was already decided. The Croatian international had a few touches on the ball but finished the match without a shot. Dortmund will have a chance for the double when they face Bayern Munich in the DFB Pokal final on Saturday. Ivan Santini looked on from the Freiburg sideline.
Mato Jajalo might be looking for a new club next year after Koln have been relegated to Bundesliga II next year after falling 4-1 to Bayern Munich on Saturday. The 23-year-old, former Slaven Belupo midfielder, played 46 minutes and failed to register a shot on goal in the loss. Mato is still looking for his first Croatian cap and finished the season with three goals and three assists with Koln. Ivica Olić and Danijel Pranjić both looked on from the bench. The Croatian internationals will be looking to feature in the DFB Pokal final against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.
Bayer Leverkusen finished the Bundesliga season on a high note after registering an impressive 4-1 win over Nurnberg. Former Dinamo Zagreb defender, Vedran Ćorluka, started and played the full 90 minutes in the win. Vedran was not at fault for the Nurnberg goal. With the win, Bayer qualified for the Europa League next season.
Mladen Petrić wore the HSV shirt for the last time after failing to find the back of the net in a 1-o season ending loss to Augsburg on Saturday. The 31-year-old, Croatian international, came on for Marcus Berg in the 71st minute and only managed to register one shot in the loss. HSV decided not to sign Mladen to a new deal and as a result, the former Dortmund man will be looking for a new club this summer. Ivo Iličević was not on the roster sheet for HSV.
Photo: Action Images
After being named the Barclay’s Premier League April ‘Player of the Month’, Nikica Jelavić has started to cool off. Jela is the first Croatian to ever win the award but has now gone scoreless in his last two matches. In Everton’s 1-1 draw with Stoke City at midweek, Jelavić only managed two shots (0 on goal) in 90 minutes of play and followed that up on Sunday with only one shot on goal from five chances. Everton drew again, this time to Championship-bound Wolverhampton in a scoreless affair. In the last game of the season, Everton will face a tough Newcastle defense.
If Jelavić ends the season in a three-game goal drought, should he still be a lock for Croatia’s starting XI at Euro 2012?
With Arsenal dropping points to Norwich on Saturday in a 3-3 draw, that opened the door for Tottenham to control their own Champions League fate; now able to finish third with wins in their final two games of the season. Luka Modrić got the start and played the full 90 minutes against an out of form Aston Villa side on Sunday, trying to recreate his wunder-gol performance from Wednesday’s win vs. Bolton. The magic was not there as Modrić played an average game as Spurs drew Aston Villa 1-1. Danny Rose’s sending off in the 49th minute did not help Spurs chances. Tottenham can secure a berth into next year’s Champions League tournament two ways: jump Arsenal in the league table to finish third or finish fourth and pray that Bayern Munich defeat Chelsea in the Champions League Final on May 19th.
Either way, the Luka Modrić transfer circus will begin as soon as Euro 2012 concludes. Should he stay if Tottenham makes Champions League?
Ivan Klasnić came on for Bolton in the 68′ and played a crisp pass down field which lead to a West Brom own goal in the 72′. With Bolton trying to fight off relegation, a win would have seen them become favorites to stay up. However, a James Morrison injury time equalizer only earned Bolton one point in the 2-2 draw. The Wanderers currently sit in 18th position and must win and get help during the final weekend to stay in the Premiership next season.
Darijo Srna and Shakhtar Donetsk needed extra time to defeat city rivals Metalurh Donetsk in the Ukrainian Cup Final on Sunday. Srna played the full 120 minutes and needed a 104′ goal from Kucher to seal the deal. Now that Shakhtar have confirmed at least one piece of hardware for the 2011-12 season, they will try for their second piece on Thursday. A win vs. Oleksandria during the last round of the Ukrainian Premier League will ensure Shakhtar the domestic title and a spot in the Champions League group stage next season.
Ivan Rakitić (above) started in Sevilla’s impressive 5-2 victory over Rayo Vallecano. He had one shot off target and earned an assist on a corner before being subbed off in the 66th minute. Sevilla would need a win, Mallorca and Levante losses, and an Osasuna loss/draw in the final round next week in order to secure the final Europa League spot. It seems as if the midweek scuffle during practice did not affect Rakitić’ game.
Real Zaragoza secured a massive 2-1 win over Racing Santader on Saturday. Tomislav Dujmović (above) was subbed on in the 60th minute and played in front of the back four, putting a header effort just wide. A win against Getafe in their final game will prevent relegation and a draw could also do so if Rayo Vallecano lose. Tomo’s future is uncertain as he was sparsely used by Dinamo Moscow and there has been no word on whether Zaragoza wish to get him on a permanent transfer.
Rostov beat Volga Nizhny 1-0 on Sunday. Stipe Pletikosa started and made two saves during the match. After getting first team football since January, Pletikosa has ensured his #1 spot at the Euro 2012. With the win, Rostov sit in fourth in the relegation group with one game to go.
Dejan Lovren might be watching the Champions League on TV next season
Olympique Lyon can just about kiss the Champions League goodbye after registering a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Brest on Sunday. Croatian international, Dejan Lovren, will sit out the rest of the season because of an achilles injury and is listed as questionable for Euro 2012 in June. Lyon is eight points behind third-place Lille with three matches left. Dejan is hoping that Lyon can still somehow squeeze into the Champions League next season: ”I do not think about it much. I give myself fully to the club that wins this qualification for the Champions League. I will be very happy for the club if we do achieve this objective. If we fail, I will be sad. But nothing is over and it’s all open.”
Olympique Lyon at Evian TG, Oleksandria at Shakhtar Donetsk, Tavriya at Dynamo Kyiv, Karpaty at Dnipro
Bayern München at Borussia Dortmund(DFB Pokal Final)
Fulham at Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United at Everton, Bolton Wanderers at Stoke City, Real Zaragoza at Getafe, Sevilla at Espanyol, Olympique Lyon at Ajaccio, Rostov at Tom’ Tomsk
~Ante Kvartuč and Denis Svirčić reporting from sunny Southern California, Zach Gilfix reporting from Minneapolis, MN