Dinamo Zagreb made a perfect start to their Champions League Group C campaign when a majestic performance gave the Croatian side a 4-0 home win over Italian rivals Atalanta on Wednesday.
Midfielder Marin Leovac fired Dinamo ahead in the 10th minute before a Mislav Orsic hat-trick sent Atalanta reeling on their debut in Europe’s premier club competition.
Dinamo coach Nenad Bjelica, whose adventurous yet unfamiliar 4-3-3 formation turned out to be a masterstroke as it kept Atalanta on the back foot throughout, was delighted.
“I had a gut feeling it would bear fruit and it did thanks to a perfect first half,” Bjelica told a news conference.
“We were tight at the back and pressed their midfield hard, which in turn enabled us to create a lot of chances. They didn’t expect that because we’d never played in this formation before.”
The score did not flatter the home side, though, as they missed several chances to win by a bigger margin, having ripped into the visitors with crisp one-touch passing and darting raids down both flanks.
Atalanta barely threatened and missed their best chance after the damage had already been done, as Dinamo keeper Dominik Livakovic pulled off a magnificent save to deny Duvan Zapata.
Leovac opened the floodgates when he slid in to meet a perfect Petar Stojanovic pass from the right and blasted it into the roof of the net from close range, with Atalanta keeper Pierluigi Gollini a mere bystander.
Leovac turned provider in the 31st minute after he left his marker for dead on the left flank and squared the ball back to Orsic, who side-footed it sweetly into the bottom left corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area.
Another raid by Stojanovic produced the third goal in the 42nd minute, as Arijan Ademi met the right back’s deep cross at the far post and headed it back for Orsic to nod in the ball from two metres.
Livewire Orsic completed a memorable night with a superb finish from 16 metres in the 68th minute, applying a perfect first touch to control a lofted pass into his stride before driving an unstoppable shot past Gollini.
Orsic credited his brilliant individual performance to selfless teamwork.
“I am happy about the hat-trick of course but the team did a great job tonight,” he said.
“It was our best performance in the last two years and we are now in a good position to reach the knockout rounds.”
In the group’s other fixture, Manchester City romped to a 3-0 win at Shakhtar Donetsk.
City are at home to Dinamo in the next round while Shakhtar visit Atalanta. (Reuters/)
Edited by Maharazu Ahmed