By Associated Press
ZAGREB: Mislav Oršić must wish he could play English teams every week.
The Croatia forward ran from the halfway line and produced a deft finish in the 13th minute to lead Dinamo Zagreb to a surprising 1-0 win over Chelsea in their opening Group E match in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Add that goal to Oršić’s feats against English clubs in the Europa League: a winner against West Ham last season and a hat trick to eliminate Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham in 2020-21.
It marked a memorable start by Dinamo to its first group-stage campaign in Europe’s top competition since 2019-20, having reached this point by coming through three qualifying rounds.
As for Chelsea, it was the latest disappointing result in an unconvincing start to the season for a club that spent nearly $300 million on refreshing its squad in the summer transfer window.
The two-time European champions dominated the match in the Croatian capital but were let down by poor finishing, which dovetailed with scrambling defense and some great saves by Dominik Livaković for the hosts.
“We are clearly not where we need to be, or where we can be,” said Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel, whose team has already lost to Leeds and Southampton in the Premier League.
Asked specifically what he didn’t like about Chelsea’s performance, Tuchel said: “At the moment, everything is missing.”
In the second half, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang — making his debut for Chelsea after a deadline-day move from Barcelona and wearing a mask to protect his injured cheek — had a goal disallowed for a narrow offside against Ben Chilwell in the build-up. Then, in a frantic finish, Reece James smashed a shot against the post before Livaković made a stunning double stop to deny Mason Mount then Hakim Ziyech.
Ultimately, the smash-and-grab win was earned thanks to the early goal by Oršić, who met a headed flick-on by Bruno Petković in midfield by chesting the ball forward inside his own half past Chelsea defender Wesley Fofana and racing clear of the newly signed French defender toward goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
As he approached Kepa, Oršić lifted the ball over the keeper and it bobbled into the net.
Dinamo looked dangerous in the rare attacks it had in a performance underpinned by defensive discipline and, from one counterattack, Stefan Ristovski powered in a rising shot that was tipped onto the crossbar by Kepa, who was selected ahead of Edouard Mendy.
“It’s an underperformance from us,” Tuchel said. “We have the same story as always — we have an OK start, we don’t finish our half-chances, we don’t feel it when the game is already there to put to bed in the first 15-20 minutes, then we concede one counter-attack which is far too easy.
“And from there, we struggled.”