HJK Helsinki now face an uphill struggle to progress in footballÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s UEFA Champions League after losing 2-1 at home to Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb. They just fell short, and will now travel to Zagreb needing to score at least twice to go through to the next round.
The game, played out in front of a sell-out crowd at TÃƒÂ¶ÃƒÂ¶lÃƒÂ¶ stadium, got off to a blistering start with two Dinamo attacks in the first three minutes. Both came down HJKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s left flank, with Mikko Sumusalo exposed, but DinamoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s advancing midfielders were unable to get on the end of either cross.
The home crowd was soon on its feet when Bah beat his marker with some neat tricks to set up several attacks. In one move Zeneli cut in to receive a pass before crossing just out of SadikÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s reach. In another Pukki shot at the keeper when he might have passed to Bah.
The opening goal came from two of HJKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more promising starlets. Bah was the architect, picking out RingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s run with a chipped pass. Ring knocked the ball past Kelava, inexplicably charging out of his goal, before lobbing Vrsaljko on the line.
The lead lasted only a few minutes. SumusaloÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s torrid time continued as he failed to stop a cross from Fatos BeÃ„â€¡iraj and Rafinha, under pressure on the far post, pinged it into the bottom corner of HJK’s goal with a finish he could be proud of, if only it had been at the other end.
HJK just about held their own for much of the second half. They created two chances for Sadik that produced point-blank reaction saves from Kelava, including one that appeared to concuss the goalkeeper, and generally looked the more energetic of the two sides, even if the energy wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always productive.
That was hardly surprising, given that they are in the middle of their season and Dinamo are just starting theirs.
The winner came in the 77th minute, when much of the crowdÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s attention was focused on the imminent introduction of the 40-year-old Finnish superstar, Jari Litmanen. Sammir broke through and finished well past WallÃƒÂ©n, knocking the stuffing out of HJK.
The second leg will be played next week in Zagreb.
HJK: Wallen; Sumusalo, Ojala, LindstrÃƒÂ¶m, Rafinha; Zeneli (Sorsa 62), Bah, Riihilahti, Ring; Sadik (Litmanen 78), Pukki (Pelvas 82).
Dinamo: Kelava; IbaÃƒÂ±ez, Tomel, Vida, Vrsaljko; Sammir (Callelo 89), Badelj, Leko, Alispahic (Kovacic 69); Beciraj (Rukavina 60), Krstanovic.