Mislav Orsic’s mouth-watering first-half strike proved to be the difference on Thursday night as Dinamo Zagreb sealed knockout qualification with a 1-0 win over West Ham United.
Orsic curled in a beauty from range after just three minutes as his side confirmed their spot in the Europa League’s round-of-16.
Not a single player in West Ham’s 3-2 win over Chelsea featured in David Moyes’ starting line-up, with 11 changes made and passage to the knockout stages already confirmed. Five youngsters made their full European debuts as the Hammers fielded a youthful backline.
Dinamo Zagreb brought four changes to the London Stadium following a defeat to Hajduk Split on the weekend. Amer Gojak, Komnen Andric, Stefan Ristovski and Dino Peric all returned to the line-up, the latter of which was yet to appear in this season’s tournament.
Story of the match
The visitors started well and looked to have settled into their surroundings soon after kick-off. With United’s inexperienced side hesitant to close-down, the Madri were able to stroke the ball around at their own pace and take the game to their hosts.
Zagreb then went ahead within four minutes through a sublime effort from Orsic. The 28-year-old, who brought a world of pain to Tottenham Hotspur in last season’s competition, received the ball on the corner of the box from Daniel Stefulj. Orsic cleverly crafted an opening before pulling the trigger and curling a sumptuous strike beyond a startled Alphonse Areola and into the top corner off the far-post.
The early lead appeared to unlock a level of ambition amongst the Croatian ranks, leading to several ambitious efforts from unlikely sources over the following 10 minutes. Fortunately for the Hammers, none of the attempts troubled Areola.
West Ham’s first real attack came on 18 minutes, when 17-year-old Sonny Perkins headed over the crossbar. Harrison Ashby fought hard for the ball wide on the right and did well to float a cross in for his fellow full-debutant, but it was inches to high for Perkins, whose poor header was well off the mark.
Dinamo could well have doubled their advantage shortly before halftime. Following a period of pressure, a delivery from the left was sent deep into the penalty area. Captain Arijan Ademi met the ball at the far post having got the better of Aji Alese, but his free header sailed both high and wide.
The Croatians finished the half just as strongly as they had started it. Luka Ivanusec saw two half-chances go begging when he tried his luck from range twice in quick succession, with one asking for a touch from the retreating Areola to stay out.
West Ham looked far brighter in the opening exchanges of the second half. With the halftime introduction of Said Benrahma, Moyes’ side were on top for the opening 10 minutes and focussed play down the wings, with Benrahma and Ashby marauding along the flanks.
And yet, it was Dinamo who had the first chance after the restart. Orsic received the ball under pressure on the penalty spot and hit a curling effort within moments of taking hold of possession. The Croatian’s fierce shot was looking like tucking into the bottom corner, but a cat-like diving save from Areola turned the ball beyond the post. It was to be Orsic’s last involvement, as he was replaced by Josip Misic just past the hour mark.
West Ham saw several further chances squandered throughout what was a half in stalemate. Alese saw a gilt-edged opportunity go amiss when, unsighted, he allowed a dangerous cross to come down off his chest. The ball slipped away from the 20-year-old, who found himself with the whole goal to aim at.
Takeaway from the match
Very promising for Harrison Ashby
Young Harrison Ashby was superb for West Ham on Thursday. A versatile wing-back, the 20-year-old was equally competent going forward as he was defending. With Daniel Stefulj and Mislav Orsic attacking down his side, it was never going to be easy. And yet, Ashby contained both men well, making some interceptions which showed a reading of the game beyond his years.
Attacking, he plundered the right flank and put in some tasty crosses – which a player with the characteristics of one Michail Antonio would have buried.
Man of the match
Mislav Orsic – Dinamo Zagreb
Croatian forward Orsic played a brilliant game, and was justly frustrated when coach Zeljko Kopic brought him off early in the second half. The 29-year-old scored the only goal of the game with a fabulous strike that would have beaten any goalkeeper and he got himself into the right positions to add to his tally, but that second goal never came.