7 March 2019 – Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb have beaten Portuguese giants Benfica in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League last 16 tie in Zagreb on Thursday night.
Bruno Petković, who earned a stand-by call up to the Croatian national team this week, scored from the penalty spot in the 38th minute to give Dinamo a 1-0 victory at Maksimir stadium in front of 30,000 fans.
Benfica had a great chance in 8th minute after controlling possession early in the match but Grimaldo was thwarted by Dinamo keeper Dominik Livaković with his feet just 8 metres out. Dinamo’s first chance came through Mislav Oršić before Dani Olmo had his powerful shot saved.
With the big crowd in full voice, Dinamo finally went ahead when Olmo was brought down in the box after latching on to the end of a pass from Oršić. Striker Petković stepped up and blasted it down the middle to score his first goal in the Europa League.
The hosts could have gone 2-0 up but Amer Gojak was unable to finish after finding himself one on one with Vlachodimos.
Benfica looked dangerous in the second spell after dominating possession but chances were difficult to create for the away side as Dinamo’s defence was up to the task. The closest they would come was in the 82nd minute when Vlachodimos hit the woodwork.
The return leg will be played next Thursday on 14 March 2019 in Lisbon.
Tonight’s victory means Croatia will have five clubs in European competitions next season, including two clubs in Champions League qualifying.
The last time Dinamo Zagreb has got this far in European competitions was back in 1970 when they reached the quarterfinals of the Cup Winners’ Cup.
The final of the UEFA Europa League will be played on 29 May in Baku, Azerbaijan.