Darijo Srna

Shakhtar Donetsk’s Darijo Srna sends 20 tons of tangerines to kids in war torn Ukraine

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Fair play to Darijo Srna.

On Wednesday it was revealed that Shakhtar Donetsk’s 32-year-old captain has given out 20 tons of tangerines to the children of Donetsk as the Eastern Ukrainian city continues to be torn apart by war.

In a statement Shakhtar said that “he [Srna] constantly feels the support of the fans. Now, the time has come for Darijo to support the Donetsk citizens himself.” In the incredible act of generosity towards the complicated situation in Shakthar’s hometown, the 11-year veteran of the reigning Ukrainian champions made the donation to the “Let’s Help Children project” which is be carried out by the Humanitarian Centre of Rinat Akhmetov.

According to Shakhtar’s website, Srna’s gift will reach over 23,000 children in the city of Donetsk which is precisely, well, all of them.

For the children who have found themselves in the war zone, Srna bought 20 tonnes of tangerines in Croatia and covered the delivery costs to the capital of Donbas!

The lorries carrying the fruit bought in Darijo’s hometown Metković have already arrived in Donetsk. On November 11, students in Budyonovskyi and Proletarskyi districts started receiving the present from the captain of Shakhtar. Until the end of the week, the sets of tangerines will be delivered to schools across the city. Aggregately, the gifts from Darijo Srna will be received by 23,143 primary school students, that is absolutely all the kids currently present in Donetsk. Besides, Darijo passed a special greeting card to every child.

Srna will not want any praise for this act, but he must be applauded for this incredibly generous donation towards the citizens of Donetsk. Citing the four-year war of independence in Croatia in the 1990s, here’s what Srna had to say.

“I grew up in Croatia so I also went through a period when I needed help. Donetsk has helped me a lot and this is just a small gift with which I want to pay them back.”

Champions League roundup: Chelsea, Man City stunned, Barca, Bayern, PSG through

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It was an action-packed day of UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday, as shocks took place, records were broken and plenty of teams found out their fate.

[RELATED: Messi equals record]

Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Porto and Paris Saint-Germain have all qualified for the last 16, while Bilbao, APOEL and Ajax are out.

Manchester City could be joining those teams out of the competition at the group stage as the Citizens were beaten 2-1 at home by CSKA Moscow. Plus Chelsea were stunned in Slovenian and Lionel Messi equaled a famous record.

Like I said, busy Wednesday.

Here’s a a roundup of all eight UCL matches, as things are shaping up quite nicely for the final two group games.

[RELATED: Latest UCL news | standings | schedule ]

GROUP E

Manchester City 1-2 CSKA MoscowRECAP

City’s nightmare run in Europe continues, as CSKA twice went ahead through Seydou Doumbia after Yaya Toure had equalized. Manuel Pellegrini’s side were then reduced to 9-men late in the game as both Toure and Fernandinho were sent off. City  are bottom of the group and the only team without a win as their chances of advancing to the last 16 look pretty slim.

Bayern Munich 2-0 AS Roma

Goals from Franck Ribery and Mario Gotze put Bayern in to the last 16 as Roma put in a much more respectable performance than their 7-1 humbling last time out.

GROUP F

Ajax 0-2 Barcelona

Lionel Messi scored twice to equal Raul’s UCL goal record of 71, as Barca qualified for the knockout stages with a win away in Amsterdam. As for the hosts, their Champions League dream is over.

PSG 1-0 APOEL

Edinson Cavani put PSG ahead within one minute after a lovely flick and volley and that was how it would finish as Les Parisiens qualified for the last 16.

GROUP G

Maribor 1-1 ChelseaRECAP

A superb strike from Ibraimi put the hosts ahead but Nemanja Matic equalized 15 minutes from time. Eden Hazard had a late penalty kick saved as the Slovenian champions shocked Jose Mourinho’s men. Still work to do for Chelsea to qualify.

Sporting 4-2 Schalke

Islam Slimani scored an own goal to put Schalke ahead in Lisbon, but the hosts equalized through Sarr, then Anderson and Nani scored to make it 3-1. Aogo pulled one back to give Schalke hope but Slimani scored at the right end to give Sporting their first win of the campaign. Things are very, very  tight in Group G.

GROUP H

Athletic Bilbao 0-2 FC Porto

The Portuguese side are through to the last 16 with a hard-fought win away in Bilbao. Second half goals from Jackson Martinez and Brahimi were enough to give Porto all three points and send Bilbao out of the tournament.

Shakthar Donetsk 5-0 BATE

Shakhtar beat BATE 7-0 last time out, and this time it was five. Luiz Adriano helped himself to a hat trick to add to his four goals from last time as he leads the UCL in scoring with nine goals so far this season. Darijo Srna and Alex Teixeira put more gloss on the scoreline. Shakhtar are almost through to the last 16, but not quite.

LIVE – Champions League, at the half: Manchester City trailing, Messi on fire

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At half time on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League, Manchester City’s woes continue.

LIVE – UCL scores, play-by-play

The Citizens are trailing CSKA at the Etihad Stadium, as Manuel Pellegrini’s men are struggling big time. Elsewhere, Lionel Messi is chasing down Raul’s record in Amsterdam and Chelsea are being held in Slovenia.

Below is an update on all eight matches from across Europe after the first 45 minutes of action on Wednesday.

GROUP E

Manchester City 1-2 CSKA Moscow

City’s nightmare run in Europe continues, as the visitors have gone ahead twice through Seydou Doumbia after Yaya Toure had equalized. Can Pellegirini’s men fight back in the second half?

Bayern Munich 1-0 AS Roma

Franck Ribery has put Bayern ahead as they are 45 minutes away from booking their spot in the last 16.

GROUP F

Ajax 0-1 Barcelona

Lionel Messi has scored to take his UCL tally to 70 goals, just one behind Raul’s record.

PSG 1-0 APOEL

Edinson Cavani put PSG ahead within one minute after a lovely flick and volley. Les Parisiens with one foot in the last 16.

GROUP G

Maribor 0-0 Chelsea

Drogba and Zouma have gone close for Chelsea, but the Slovenians are making life tough for the Blues.

Sporting 1-1 Schalke

Islam Slimani scored an own goal to put Schalke ahead in Lisbon, but the hosts equalized through Adrien Silva.

GROUP H

Athletic Bilbao 0-0 FC Porto

Stalemate in Northern Spain, as Bilbao desperately need their first UCL win of the season.

Shakthar Donetsk 1-0 BATE

Darijo Srna has given Shakthar the lead against the team they beat 7-0 last time out.

Late surge pushes Mexico past Croatia, into the knockout round

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Late goals from Rafa Márquez, Andrés Guardado, and Javier Hernández have shattered Croatia’s World Cup dreams and sent Mexico into a sixth straight knockout round. With goals in the 72nd and 75th minutes, Márquez and Guardado blew open a previously scoreless match, while late insurance from ‘Chicharito’ Hernández helped clinch second place in Group A with a 3-1 win in Recife.

An hour of even play slowly started to sway Mexico’s way with chances in the 64th and 69th minutes. Eighteen minutes from time, Márquez finally put his team on the scoreboard, heading home a Héctor Herrera corner to make it 1-0. Three minutes later, Guardado’s blast from the left of the Croatian area doubled the lead, while Hernández finished a 82nd minute corner to provide further insurance. After Ivan Persic found 87th minute consolation, Mexico had their two-goal win.

Hoping to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in 28 years, Mexico moves on to the final 16, facing the Netherlands on Sunday in Fortaleza. Croatia, with one win in three matches, end their 2014 World Cup third in Group A.

[ MORE: Neymar lifts Brazil | Dutch down Chile | Spain conquers Socceroos ]
[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

Even play over the first 45 minutes saw Mexico nearly take the lead twice in the first 20 minutes. Off a long-range shot in the 16th minute, Herrera nailed the upper-left hand corner of Stipe Pletikosa’s goal, while a ball played behind Croatia’s defense three minutes later left Oribe Peralta sprawled in the penalty area after the Mexican forward slipped while turning onto a close-range shot.

Come the hour mark, Mexico began to upset the game’s balance. In the 64th minute, a Guardado shot from the left of the area drew handball appeals as it went off Darijo Srna’s arms and out for a corner. Five minutes later, Pletikosa kicked out at a Herrera cross to prevent a ball from bouncing across his six-yard box. Come the 70th minute, Mexico had firmly established itself on the front foot.

In the 72nd minute, that advantage finally paid off. Off a Herrera corner from the left, Márquez was found at the edge of the six-yard box. Heading down and into goal, the veteran defender celebrated his fourth finals as captain with a breakthrough score, giving Mexico a 1-0 lead.

Three minutes later, Croatia’s back was broken. Shooting from nearly the spot where Srna denied him 11 minutes before, Guardardo finished high into the left of Pletikosa’s net, providing what proved the game-winning goal.

In the 82nd minute, Hernández snuck in at the far post to put home a corner flicked on by Márquez – a goal that was pulled back minutes later by Perisic’s finish into Guillermo Ochoa’s lower-right hand corner. When Ante Rebic was red carded in the 89th minute, Croatia’s hopes of a comeback were done.  Mexico would advance with their two-goal victory.

It was the most impressive performance yet from a Mexican side that continues to overshadow its qualifying mishaps. When the team take sthe field on Sunday in Fortaleza, they’ll do so having only conceded one meaningless goal through three group stage matches.

Whether that defense will be able to hold off the Dutch remains to be seen, but after strong performances against Brazil and Croatia, there’s reason to believe Mexico can do damage in the knockout round.

Lineups

Croatia: Pletikosa; Srna, Corluka, Lovren, Vrsaljko (Kovacic 58′); Modric, Pranjic (Jelavic 74′); Perisic, Rakitic, Olic (Rebic 69′), Mandzukic

Goals: Perisic 87′

Mexico: Ochoa; Aguilar, Rodríguez, Marquez, Moreno, Layún; Vazquez, Herrera, Guardado (Fabián 84′); Dos Santos (Hernández 62′), Peralta (Peña 79′)

Goals: Márquez 72′, Guardado 75′, Hernández 82′

Could Croatia really have done better against Iceland?

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On Friday evening, Iceland and Croatia played out a 0-0 draw in the chilly air of Reykjavik. Iceland, with a population barely over 300,000, were meant to be the tiny minnows in the matchup, a side that should’ve been easily beaten by a Croatia team featuring players in some of Europe’s biggest clubs. Instead, Iceland held on tight to keep the visitors from scoring, despite going down to ten men shortly after the restart.

The hosts had also lost one of their brightest players when injured Ajax striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson came off just before the break. Veteran Eidur Gudjohnsen replaced him, but barely had time to make an impact before moving to midfield to help stem the Croatia attack. Iceland’s compact organization and disciplined defending were already on show during the first half, but were certainly put to the test by a relentless Croatia in the second. Iceland were also helped by the heroic Hannes Thór Halldórsson, with the KR Reykjavik goalkeeper putting on an immense display to stifle shots from Ivan Rakitic, Ivica Olic, Ivan Perisic and Darijo Srna, just to name a few.

To the detached observer, there was little fault to be found in Croatia’s play. Perhaps Eduardo could have done better with his shot in the second minute. Maybe Perisic should have found a way to put in a better strike in the 40th. But their second half display was rather brilliant, with pretty passing, fancy footwork and yes, even some sharp shots on target. Yet Iceland had ten men behind the ball, and that, combined with Halldórsson’s flying saves, prevented the Croats from going home with a win.

But Croatia sees it rather differently. After all, they were supposed to head home clutching an easy victory, and have Tuesday’s leg in Zagreb be a matter of routine. Instead, the draw, particularly against ten men, seemed much more like a loss. Now, the Croats are a-flutter, and the media is in a tizzy. Why, they ask, is this side unable to beat such a weak team, especially after a sending off?

The media attack feels all to familiar to fans of any country that hasn’t lived up to high expectations placed upon them. It followed a particular rhythm: blame the coach for poor player selection. Judge tactics, and find them wanting. Decry the performances of a star player, and state that he doesn’t show up for his country the way he does for his club.

Yet buried in the media onslaught is a small grain of truth. Many expected more from newly appointed manager Niko Kovač. The unpopular Igor Štimac was relieved from his duties after Croatia failed to qualify directly for Brazil, and better things were expected from Croatia’s former captain. Instead, Kovač stuck with a 4-2-3-1 formation — a formation that Croatia does not have the wide players necessary to execute well.

It was the endless tinkering from Štimac (well, it was many things, but this was the major tactical complaint) that brought forth so much criticism. It’s what saw Croatia, who looked so good in the early qualifying matches, lose their momentum in the final matches. Štimac’s selection and tactics saw his side fall twice to Scotland and allow Serbia back into the match for a draw.

With just one match left to secure their trip to Brazil, what Croatia needs now is simplicity. The blame does not lie with Luka Modric, and whether or not he steps up for his country the way he does for Real Madrid. It’s not on Srna, and his way of encouraging his team. Injuries or lack of talent cannot be blamed. Instead, it is up to Kovač to get back to basics in Zagreb: a solid, simple formation (yes, most likely the 4-4-2) that allows Croatia to soak up a rare Iceland attack, while enabling them to get forward quickly enough to perhaps get behind the organized Iceland defense.

A header from Mandžukić. A backheel from Modric to set up a shot from Perisic. A stunning free kick from Srna. It’s possible. But only if Croatia leave the Tinker Toys behind in Reykjavik.