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Skënderbeu sunk by last-gasp Dinamo winner

Skënderbeu 1-2 Dinamo Zagreb
Josip Pivarić got a 93rd-minute clincher to damage the White and Reds' hopes of becoming the first Albanian side to feature in the group stage.

Dinamo players celebrate Josip Pivarić's 93rd-minute clincher at Skënderbeu
Dinamo players celebrate Josip Pivarić's 93rd-minute clincher at Skënderbeu ©AFP/Getty Images
  • Blendi Shkëmbi hits 37th-minute opener
  • El Arabi Hilal Soudani restores parity with 66th-minute effort
  • Josip Pivarić completes Dinamo comeback in added time
  • White and Reds suffer first European home defeat in eight
  • Second leg at Stadion Maksimir on 25 August

Josip Pivarić struck a last-gasp winner in added time to damage Skënderbeu's hopes of becoming the first Albanian side to feature in the group stage as Dinamo Zagreb claimed a 2-1 win in their UEFA Champions League play-off first leg.

An away victory looked on the cards after a dominant first-half display by Dinamo, only for the Albanian champions to take a 37th-minute lead via Shkëmbi's left-footed free-kick. However, El Arabi Hilal Soudani struck an equaliser after the restart before Pivarić's 93rd-minute effort from distance sealed the comeback success.

Seeking to reach the group stage for the first time since 2012/13, Dinamo had started brightly and produced the first chance of the match. Soudani hit a powerful effort but his drive was turned away for a corner by home custodian Orges Shehi.

Blendi Shkëmbi struck the opener for Skënderbeu
Blendi Shkëmbi struck the opener for Skënderbeu©AFP/Getty Images

The hosts, unbeaten in seven European home games, responded via Bernard Berisha who flashed an attempt just wide of the near post. However, Zoran Mamić's charges took control and spurned two good openings. Armin Hodžić squandering a glorious opportunity when he had only Shehi to beat after collecting a pinpoint right-wing delivery but the forward was foiled by the Skënderbeu goalkeeper. Two minutes later, Soudani hit the woodwork with a looping header.

Yet, it was the White and Reds who broke the deadlock following a rare first-half foray which resulted in a free-kick on the edge of the box. Skënderbeu skipper Shkëmbi stepped up to convert in emphatic fashion, lashing a left-footed effort into the far corner. The Croatian side should have equalised a minute before the break but Hodžić was denied by Shehi when he was sent clear.

Hamdi Salihi almost doubled the advantage for Mirel Josa's men after the restart but the No14 failed to find a finish. Moments later, the Blues punished that miss by netting the equaliser. Pjaca was the provider, receiving the ball inside the box, before squaring Soudani to tap into the empty net. Dinamo completed the turnaround in dramatic fashion as Pivarić curled a right-footed effort into the top corner with seconds remaining.

Mirel Josa, Skënderbeu coach
I cannot say that was the right result. It was a match that we deserved to draw. In the second half we played better than the first, though our goal came in the first half. The result does not give us much chance to make the group stage but we are going to Zagreb to play our game and to hope for something special.

Zoran Mamić, Dinamo Zagreb coach
We came to Albania to win the match and we achieved that. The result seems great, but we cannot be assured of qualification to the group stage. Skënderbeu are an aggressive team, they have three or four players – Bernard Berisha, Blendi Shkëmbi, Sabien Lilaj and Hamdi Salihi – that are very good players. I can say that the match changed after Ante Ćorić came on. He did very well.