HNK Hajduk Split qualified for the UEFA Cup second round on the away-goals rule after holding off a second-half onslaught from Grasshopper-Club despite being reduced to ten men for almost an hour of the game.
Hajduk in control
The Croatian side were in control until their busy midfield player Dean Racunica was shown two yellow cards in a three-minute spell just after the half-hour mark. The second offence was for a deliberate handball that Racunica insisted was an accident and forced coach Zoran Velic to drop Dragan Blatnak into midfield and play Petar Krpan as a lone forward.
Early chance missed
Before they were one man down, Hajduk had squandered a succession of opportunities to take the lead. The first came with less than 30 seconds on the clock, when Blatnak's
free-kick broke to Vlatko Dolonga in the area, but the startled midfield player could only poke the ball against the outside of the post.
That miss set the tone. Hajduk thought they had taken the lead after 13 minutes but Mario Carevic's dipping free-kick was scrambled away by Fabrice Borer from under the crossbar. A minute later, Krpan then hooked in a shot that grazed the outside of the post. Another chance went begging when Nenad Pralja pounced on a half-clearance but his shot from the edge of the area went over the top.
Grasshoppers created some chances of their own: Romanian forward Ionel Gane toe-poked just wide after he was left one-on-one with the goalkeeper Hrvoje Sunara. Eduardo, who scored in the first leg, came even closer when he broke the offside trap and chipped the ball over the advancing Sunara, but Tomislav Rukavina was there to hack the ball off the line.
Eduardo effort in vain
Grasshoppers continued to push forward in the second period but could not make the extra man count as they struggled to create any clear-cut chances despite captain Eduardo's non-stop running.
Sunara the Brave
It was Eduardo's 79th-minute cross that led to their only decent chance: a deep ball that was not cleared broke to Mladen Petric, who was one-on-one with Sunara. The Croatian goalkeeper dived bravely at the striker's feet and harried him into pushing the ball wide. Sunara's bravery summed up Hajduk's performance: he had to go off immediately with a nasty head injury but it was worth it as his team held on.
Hajduk coach Zoran Vulic was delighted that his side did enough to reach the next round. "Grasshoppers are very good and we expected a tough match," he said. "We had some problems after the red card, but we kept our heads and I must congratulate my players."