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Season review: Croatia

Published: Thursday 5 June 2014, 11.31CET
GNK Dinamo Zagreb clinched a ninth consecutive title but they did not have it all their own way as HNK Rijeka lifted the Croatian Cup to claim a first trophy in eight years.
Season review: Croatia
Dinamo Zagreb celebrated their ninth consecutive title ©GNK Dinamo Zagreb
Published: Thursday 5 June 2014, 11.31CET

Season review: Croatia

GNK Dinamo Zagreb clinched a ninth consecutive title but they did not have it all their own way as HNK Rijeka lifted the Croatian Cup to claim a first trophy in eight years.

GNK Dinamo Zagreb continued their Croatian First League dominance with a ninth consecutive title but they did not have it all their own way as the domestic double slipped from their grasp when HNK Rijeka triumphed in the cup final.

Champions: GNK Dinamo Zagreb
The capital club clinched a ninth straight championship with four games to spare and have won every title since 2005/06 as well as five Croatian Cups and two Croatian Super Cups. One of the stars of their season was 17-year-old midfielder Alen Halilović, who signed for FC Barcelona after enjoying a final bow in a 1-0 victory over HNK Hajduk Split. "I have experienced everything at Dinamo, scoring at the Maksimir and the Poljud stadiums against Hajduk Split, but now it's time to move to Barcelona," said Halilović, who hit five top-flight goals this term, having penned a five-year deal with Barça in March. "I will always remember the moment I walked into Dinamo's dressing room for the first time. They were very happy for me to be there and gladly welcomed me."

Cup final: GNK Dinamo Zagreb 0-1 HNK Rijeka
HNK Rijeka 2-0 GNK Dinamo Zagreb (agg: 3-0)

Second in the First League, Rijeka upset the odds in the Croatian Cup final with victory in both legs and two clean sheets against the champions. Rijeka travelled to Zagreb and prevailed 1-0 with an Ivan Tomečak goal, before Matej Mitrović scored on 35 minutes and Zoran Kvržić added another late on in the return to spark celebrations in Rijeka. "We defeated a big Dinamo Zagreb team in both matches without concededing a goal," said Rijeka coach Matjaž Kek. "We deserve to win this trophy and it is a big victory."

European places*
GNK Dinamo Zagreb – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
HNK Rijeka – UEFA Europa League second qualifying
HNK Hajduk Split – UEFA Europa League second qualifying
RNK Split – UEFA Europa League second qualifying qualifying
*subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: El Arbi Hillel Soudani (GNK Dinamo Zagreb)
He confirmed his status as an established, quality top-flight forward with an impressive campaign for champions Dinamo. The 26-year-old Algerian international netted 16 league goals and was the difference between Dinamo's menacing attack, which harvested 81 goals in 36 games, and the rest of the division.

One to watch: Mario Pašalić (HNK Hajduk Split)
The 19-year-old midfielder has already proved himself a top-class player with the potential to develop even further. He scored 11 times for Hajduk Split and managed to grab a double in both derby matches – against Dinamo and city rivals RNK. In January, Chelsea spotted his talent and he agreed a contract to join the Premier League club on 1 July.

Surprise package: HNK Rijeka
It was eight years ago that the Rijeka outfit last lifted a trophy but they managed to pick up the Croatian Cup and were the only real threat to Dinamo's domination. Rijeka had to settle for second spot in the table but in the Croatian Cup final they got the better of the Zagreb team in both legs. Andrej Kramarić, who had joined Rijeka from Dinamo, ended the season as their leading marksman.

Leading scorer: Duje Čop, GNK Dinamo Zagreb (22)

Relegated: NK Hrvatski dragovoljac

Promoted: NK Zagreb

Number: 34
The number of the trophies collected by Dinamo Zagreb since Croatia declared independence in 1991. Their latest crown was the 16th title and ninth in a row, while they have also secured 13 Croatian Cups and five domestic Super Cups.

"I returned to Dinamo as a player nine years ago and since then we have been consistently champions. I have celebrated titles as player, sporting director and now coach. It's a really nice feeling." Dinamo boss Zoran Mamić knows what it takes to win in Croatia.

Last updated: 05/06/14 11.32CET

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