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Austria Wien's Croatian link key against Dinamo

On Tuesday FK Austria Wien welcome GNK Dinamo Zagreb holding a 2-0 first-leg lead thanks in no small part to the influence of their Croatian contingent, including coach Nenad Bjelica.

Hajduk fan Kaja Rogulj helped down Dinamo last week
Hajduk fan Kaja Rogulj helped down Dinamo last week ©Getty Images

There are two Croatians at FK Austria Wien in the form of coach Nenad Bjelica and defender Kaja Rogulj. On top of that, Austro-Croatian defender Marin Leovac scored his first professional goal in the 2-0 UEFA Champions League first-leg win against GNK Dinamo Zagreb – his favourite club.

Austria welcome Dinamo on Tuesday seemingly on the verge of earning a group stage debut thanks to the first-leg efforts of goalscorers Leovac and Marko Stanković as well as goalkeeper Heinz Lindner. Indeed, in the wake of last Wednesday's opening leg, Dinamo coach Krunoslav Jurčić was relieved of his duties. President Zdravko Mamić spoke of the need for a "positive shock" and appointed Damir Krznar and his own brother Zoran Mamić.

Croatian daily newspaper 'Vecernji list' had special words for Bjelica, calling him a "gentleman, who is enjoying his victory in private. Dinamo may have the better players but, in contrast to Austria, they don't look like a team".

It was a special win for 42-year-old Bjelica and his players. "It was a great day and a big step, but now we have to remain very modest," insisted Bjelica. "I'm aware that we are in a good position, but we still have a lot of work to do. The party doesn't start until at least 22.35 on Tuesday night."

For Leovac the location of the win and his debut strike was particularly special. "I couldn't have picked a better time or place for me to get my first goal," he said. "It's a little footballing fairytale." Leovac only came into the starting lineup because of left-back Markus Suttner's suspension, but scored what may prove the most lucrative goal in the club's history.

As for Rogulj, who has played for Austria since 2011, he could not only take pleasure from his solid defensive performance but the fact that it was against the arch-rivals of his own favourite club, HNK Hajduk Split. "It's the first time I've beaten Dinamo in my career and it has come at the best possible time as well," explained Rogulj.