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Season review: Croatia

Published: Monday 1 June 2009, 18.55CET
NK Dinamo Zagreb remain the dominant force in Croatia but had to rely on arch-rivals HNK Hajduk Split stumbling with two costly defeats in May before completing their third straight domestic double and fourth title in a row.
by Elvir Islamović
from Zagreb
Season review: Croatia
Dinamo's Marijo Mandžukić (left) finished as the top scorer ©Getty Images
Published: Monday 1 June 2009, 18.55CET

Season review: Croatia

NK Dinamo Zagreb remain the dominant force in Croatia but had to rely on arch-rivals HNK Hajduk Split stumbling with two costly defeats in May before completing their third straight domestic double and fourth title in a row.

NK Dinamo Zagreb remain the dominant force in Croatia but they had to rely on arch-rivals HNK Hajduk Split stumbling before completing their third straight domestic double.

Champions: NK Dinamo Zagreb
Dinamo secured their eleventh Croatian title, and fourth in succession, despite losing the lead following a 2-0 loss to Hajduk in February and subsequent 0-0 draw with NK Osijek. Hajduk challenged all the way but defeats in May by NK Varteks and HNK Rujeka ultimately left them six points adrift of Dinamo.

Cup final: NK Dinamo Zagreb 3-0, 0-3 HNK Hajduk Split (Dinamo win 4-3 on penalties)
The first leg did not hint at the excitement to come after a comfortable Dinamo victory. But in the return two Nikola Kalinić goals and one from Mladen Bartolović forced a penalty shoot-out, although two saves from Dinamo goalkeeper Tomislav Butina secured the double.

European places
NK Dinamo Zagreb: UEFA Champions League, second qualifying round
HNK Hajduk Split: UEFA Europa League, third qualifying round
HNK Rijeka: UEFA Europa League, second qualifying round
NK Slaven Koprivnica: UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round

Player of the year: Mario Mandžukić (NK Dinamo Zagreb)
With the strike in the 2-2 draw against Hajduk that ended the season, Mandžukić ended as the league's top scorer on 16 goals. The 23-year-old also earned a Croatia call-up and has been linked with a move to some of Europe's top leagues.

One to watch: Matej Delač (NK Inter Zaprešić)
That Inker avoided relegation is due in no small part to their teenage goalkeeper. The youngest player in the top flight is not even 17 until August but showed his ability against Dinamo and Hajduk and is already on the radar of clubs throughout the continent.

Surprise package: HNK Rijeka
Rijeka struggled early on and looked an average side after the second set of eleven games but in the third and concluding portion of fixtures they secured 24 points with eight wins and three losses to book a European slot in third place. At home they won eleven on the trot.

Leading scorer: Mario Mandžukić (NK Dinamo Zagreb) 16 goals

Number: 43
Dinamo Zagreb now have won six doubles and in total they have 43 major honours dating back to their first championship in 1923 under the name Građanski Zagreb in what was then called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians.

Quote
"In our new coach Krunoslav Jurčić I get a little me on the bench. It's really impressive how he can lead the team and inspire them with his energy. Such people are not born every day."
Zdravko Mamić, Dinamo vice-president

Last updated: 01/06/09 20.12CET

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