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RelatedPosts Neuer crowned Player of the Month for August Castagne signs Leicester City deal Budapest to host Bayern-Sevilla Super Cup final Dinamo Zagreb made a perfect start to their Champions League Group C campaign when a majestic performance gave the Croatian side a 4-0 home win over Italian rivals Atalanta on Wednesday. Midfielder Marin Leovac fired Dinamo ahead in the 10th minute before a Mislav Orsic hat-trick sent Atalanta reeling on their debut in Europe’s premier club competition. Dinamo coach Nenad Bjelica, whose adventurous yet unfamiliar 4-3-3 formation turned out to be a masterstroke as it kept Atalanta on the back foot throughout, was delighted. “I had a gut feeling it would bear fruit and it did thanks to a perfect first half,” Bjelica told a news conference. “We were tight at the back and pressed their midfield hard, which in turn enabled us to create a lot of chances. They didn’t expect that because we’d never played in this formation before.” The score did not flatter the home side, though, as they missed several chances to win by a bigger margin, having ripped into the visitors with crisp one-touch passing and darting raids down both flanks. Atalanta barely threatened and missed their best chance after the damage had already been done, as Dinamo keeper Dominik Livakovic pulled off a magnificent save to deny Duvan Zapata. Leovac opened the floodgates when he slid in to meet a perfect Petar Stojanovic pass from the right and blasted it into the roof of the net from close range, with Atalanta keeper Pierluigi Gollini a mere bystander. Leovac turned provider in the 31st minute after he left his marker for dead on the left flank and squared the ball back to Orsic, who side-footed it sweetly into the bottom left corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area. Another raid by Stojanovic produced the third goal in the 42nd minute, as Arijan Ademi met the right back’s deep cross at the far post and headed it back for Orsic to nod in the ball from two metres. Livewire Orsic completed a memorable night with a superb finish from 16 metres in the 68th minute, applying a perfect first touch to control a lofted pass into his stride before driving an unstoppable shot past Gollini. Orsic credited his brilliant individual performance to selfless teamwork. “I am happy about the hat-trick of course but the team did a great job tonight,” he said. “It was our best performance in the last two years and we are now in a good position to reach the knockout rounds.” In the group’s other fixture, Manchester City romped to a 3-0 win at Shakhtar Donetsk. City are at home to Dinamo in the next round while Shakhtar visit Atalanta. Reuters/NAN.Tags: AtalantaChampions LeagueDinamo ZagrebMislav OrsicNenad Bielica
“It’s a real exciting time,” said the 41-year-old. “I’ve seen the games before and I’ve been fortunate enough to have been at Anfield on a Champions League occasion and they are truly special occasions. “You see the support the players get. We had it in the Europa League, when I sensed a little bit of that atmosphere. “Of course, it’s a different competition, but when we needed to get the win against Zenit St Petersburg the supporters that night were incredible. “Throughout my time here, in the big games, the supporters really show how passionate they are and they show why they are the great set of supporters that they are. “We’ll really look forward to it because we know that in the Champions League, if we can perform well away from home, in the home games we’re going to be hard to beat because of the supporters and the quality of the team.” Rodgers’ summer recruitment will be key as he looks to improve a squad which, despite lacking quality in depth, ran an expensively-assembled City side very close in the title race. The added attraction of Champions League football should ensure they can target a higher calibre of player than last year when Rodgers bought the likes of Sevilla’s Luis Alberto and Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas for a combined £15million, only for both to fail to make an impact. Progress is slow in talks with Southampton for midfielder Adam Lallana, although Liverpool have been offered some encouragement in their pursuit of Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Emre Can, despite the presence of a Bayern Munich buy-back clause. “We’re all working hard still in terms of looking to get players in,” Rodgers told liverpoolfc.com. “Of course, at the club where we are now the signings are complex, they are not all simple signings. “But we need to strengthen up the squad and that’s something that we’re working hard to do over the next number of weeks.” Press Association Manager Brendan Rodgers is excited by the prospect of leading Liverpool into the Champions League next season after committing his long-term future to the club. The disappointment of finishing runners-up to Premier League champions Manchester City was offset by the knowledge the club would be back among Europe’s elite for the first time since 2009. Rodgers, who on Monday signed a new deal believed to take him through to 2018 at Anfield, experienced the Europa League during his first year in charge, but knows next season will be completely different.