Dinamo Drops Out of Europa League, Rijeka Knocked Out of Conference League

Daniela Rogulj


August 31, 2023 – Dinamo suffered a tough defeat to Sparta Prague in the return match of the Europa League play-offs and will play in the Conference League for the first time. Lille left Rijeka without a chance in the Conference League this season after an extra-time finish, too.

In the return match of the Europa League play-off, Dinamo lost 4-1 to Sparta Prague and failed to defend their 3-1 advantage from the first match.

Sparta already led 2-0 after 24 minutes with goals from Haraslin and Sorensen, but Panak made it 3-0 in the 67th minute. Baturina brought Dinamo back into the game with a fantastic goal in the 71st minute, but Olatunji took Sparta to the Europa League with a goal in the 87th minute.

After playing in the Champions League eight times and nine times in the groups of the UEFA Cup and Europa League, Dinamo will play in the Conference League for the first time in the club’s history.

Dinamo coach Sergej Jakirović was visibly disappointed after the match:

“Sparta was the better team, and I want to congratulate them. I don’t know why we reacted so badly in the first half. We conceded two goals, then tried to improve the game with substitutions. It’s a pity that Ljubičić didn’t score when it was 2-0, and then we conceded the third goal. We then controlled the game well, and when we conceded the fourth, it was hard to expect to come back. A new match will follow quickly. There is no going back to this,” he said, adding that this was the hardest defeat in his career.

“My only question is why we were so empty in the first half. What happened? That’s why we reacted at halftime. We didn’t think it would be easy, and we knew that a good opponent was waiting for us. But we don’t have time to cry; we need to learn from our mistakes. A new game awaits us in Osijek already on Sunday,” he added.

Another Croatian club also had a shot at the Conference League this season as Rijeka met Lille in the return match of the Conference League play-offs at a sold-out Rujevica Stadium on Thursday. Unfortunately, Rijeka was knocked out of Europe by Lille in the playoffs with a 1-1 draw after extra time. Ivan Smolčić scored for the Rijeka lead in the 58th minute, and Jonathan David equalized for Lille in extra time (109th minute), resulting in a 1-1 draw. This was enough for Lille to advance to the Conference League group stage after beating Rijeka 2-1 in the first leg in France.

The draw for the Conference League groups is scheduled for Friday at 1:00 pm at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco.

To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.


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