GNK Dinamo Zagreb captain Milan Badelj said it was a match "that summed up his time at the club" after he scored an own goal but then struck the winner in his farewell game at the Stadion Maksimir.
The departure of Badelj for Hamburger SV was announced several weeks ago, but before starting afresh in the Bundesliga, he was given permission to play for Dinamo in their bid to qualify for the UEFA Champions League. In front of his home fans for the final time, the midfielder managed to conjure a fairy tale ending even if the evening had not started particularly auspiciously.
Dinamo had already taken the lead against NK Maribor when, in the 39th minute, Badelj could only divert Goran Cvijanovič's free-kick past goalkeeper Ivan Kelava to draw the Slovenian champions level, and give them a crucial away goal. "I would like to apologise to the boys and our fans for the own goal," Badelj said. "I tried to block, but only succeeding in wrong-footing Kelava. We didn't complete our aim here tonight as we conceded a goal, but at least we won."
It was not turning out to be the send-off Badelj had planned, but the 23-year-old was to experience his very own game of two halves as he went from zero to hero, scoring a 74th-minute winner after a through ball from the excellent Duje Čop. "Reflecting on this match, I think I entered it with too many emotions and that's the probable reason I made a mistake," said Badelj.
"That made me determined to make amends – bow out on a high – and I managed to do that by scoring a winner," added Badelj, who has won four national titles since his first team debut in 2008. "You could say that this match against Maribor summed up my whole career here: many good things, but also some errors and mistakes."
Badelj's final game for Dinamo will be in Maribor, and now he wants to complete the mission he put his move to Hamburg on hold for. "I am still at Dinamo, I am not at HSV even in my head. I will do anything I can to help my club to reach the Champions League – I just hope I don't score another own goal! Our paths are splitting after that match, but my heart will stay here."
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