29 years to the day Dinamo fans ran riot through Bergamo in a UEFA Cup tie against Atalanta, their team ran riot against the same opponents in an incredible 4-0 victory on the opening day of Group C. The performance was topped by a memorable hat trick on Champions League debut by winger Mislav Orsic.
Story of the game
It would be generous to suggest that Atalanta were ever in the game as they had the misfortune to run up against a Dinamo side that put in one of the finest European performances in their club's history. A wonderful run from Dani Olmo opened up the defence after 10 minutes to allow Marin Leovac to take up a position to convert from close range to put Dinamo ahead early. Olmo would bring the chaos one more, creating space in the defence to allow Marin Leovac to cut back to Mislav Orsic, who began his starring role in making it 2-0 on the half-hour mark
Orsic would strike again with a header from close range to put Dinamo 3-0 up going into half time. Three shots on target, three goals up and Atalanta were on the ropes after an absolutely ruthless first half from the hosts.
In spite of making a pair of changes at half time, including introducing former Hajduk starlet Mario Pasalic, Atalanta were unable to get back into the game. They did create a good chance for Duvan Zapata but, in truth, the knockout blows landed in the first half had put Atalanta firmly on the canvas. Mislav Orsic would strike again with 20 minutes to go to round off the victory and his own personal achievement of a hat trick on Champions League debut as Dinamo headed to the top of the group.
Takeaways from the game
Dani Olmo is the real deal
Long term viewers of Croatian football will wonder what is taking the rest of the world so long to catch up with just how good this young Spaniard is. Mislav Orsic may have taken headlines with his hat-trick, but Olmo was often unplayable and, on a night where Joao Felix was meant to justify his extravagant fee in Madrid, Olmo proved that, when he moves, any fee will be similarly extravagant.
On his full Champions League debut, he left no-one in any doubt just how much talent he has. Dinamo’s first goal was the result of a run into the heart of the box that left much of the Atalanta defence scrambling and running scared. Their second saw the inevitable result of that - Olmo pressed quickly by two Atalanta players yet still able to play a cute ball between them to set Leovac into space to set up Orsic. Olmo spent much of the rest of the game double marked but, even then, he was able to play part of the move that led to Orsic’s hat trick goal. For 90 minutes, he struck fear into an experienced and accomplished defence. If you weren’t aware of Olmo before the game, you certainly are now.
Did Atalanta do their homework?
Dinamo put in an exceptional performance but their first two goals felt extremely familiar to long-time viewers. The lack of defence of direct running from Dani Olmo at the opener was eerily reminiscent of last year’s Europe League last 32 opener in Zagreb against Viktoria Plzen, right down to leaving a defender on their behind. The deep Leovac cut back to Orsic for the second was a carbon copy of a goal scored by Dinamo against HNK Gorica at the end of last season. It may be difficult for clubs to fully scout teams from what are thought of as minor leagues due to the comparative lack of coverage, but to see Atalanta fall for Dinamo’s Greatest Hits package was surprising.
Are Dinamo this season’s Ajax?
Okay, it’s far too early to say, and Manchester City are bound to overwhelm them at the Etihad in the next game, but Dinamo are similarly young, have those similar burgeoning talents and have an exceptionally canny manager. It’s tempting to look to Ajax as an obvious comparison, but Dinamo have developed a mastery of playing without the ball that makes them stand out in this sort of company. One overlooked statistic from the game is that Dinamo only had 46% possession at home. Yet they were able to move the ball swiftly around and past Atalanta almost at will - pressing them high, winning possession within the Atalanta half and being able to take up positions to exploit those opportunities over and over again.
Most regional observers will accept that this is the best generation of a Dinamo Zagreb side since Luka Modric was playing at the club, and many would suggest this crop are better than even that side. Certainly, in a group that, City aside, looks very tight, such an emphatic victory is a big step towards ensuring continental football beyond the end of the group stage.
It’s hard not to pick out the hat-trick hero as the star man. His first and third were great examples of his talents - coming in from deep to strike from the edge of the box to start his scoring spree and hanging around in space at the back post to take advantage of slack defending for his third. Orsic has been, for some time, the key that unlocked this sort of level of performance for Dinamo and this was his finest hour.