ZAGREB, May 20 (Xinhua) -- On a warm Saturday night Maksimir Stadium was a place of celebration for Dinamo Zagreb footballers and their supporters as the most successful Croatian club lifted a national champions trophy for the 19th time after a convincing 3-1 win over local rival Inter Zapresic.
Swiss international Mario Gavranovic was on target twice and Algerian striker Hilal Soudani scored once for the newly crowned champion that saw their streak of 11 national titles in a row came to an end last year when Rijeka proved to be a better team. The goal that Soudani scored against Inter Zapresic was his 17th this season and made him the best scorer in the Croatian league for the first time in his career.
"I am proud of our team and I couldn't have done this without great teammates. We deserve to be the champions and we still have one more match to play and win another trophy," the 30-year old Alger international said.
Dinamo Zagreb will try to emulate what Rijeka did last year by winning Croatian Cup on Wednesday in a final against fierce rival Hajduk Split that finished third in the championship after losing to Rijeka on Saturday afternoon.
Dinamo came out on top with 73 points from 36 matches, three point ahead of Rijeka and seven points ahead of Hajduk Split. It was the closest championship race between Dinamo and its rivals since 2009-2010 season when the "blues" won the title beating Hajduk Split by four points.
During the first part of the season, under the guidance of Mario Cvitanovic, Dinamo built a big lead over Hajduk Split, Osijek and Rijeka. Going into the winter break the team from Zagreb had collected 50 points from 20 matches, 12 more than Hajduk Split in the second place. In the second part of the season, Dinamo let its big margin to slip away and that cost Cvitanovic his job.
Nikola Jurcevic, former Slaven Bilic's assistant during his reign in West Ham United and Croatian national team, was apointed as head coach on March 12 but he lasted only two months, even though he managed to save the championship by beating Hajduk at Poljud Stadium in Split.
Nenad Bjelica was announced as Jurcevic's successor on May 15 and four days later he has won his first trophy with Dinamo Zagreb.
"I don't have anything to do with this trophy. All the hard work has been done by Cvitanovic and Jurcevic. I am here to built the team for the future challenges," the 46-year-old manager said after his Saturday debut on the Dinamo Zagreb bench.
His first real test will be the Croatian Cup final on Wednesday, when his team will try to beat Hajduk Split at neutral ground in Vinkovci. Winning a Croatian double would mark a good start before the summer transfer window during which Bjelica will have to find some reinforcements to make a competitive team that would have a chance to qualify for the group stage of UEFA Champions League.
Since talented 20-year-old left back Borna Sosa has already signed a four-year contract with German side VfB Stuttgart and with 21-year-old midfielder Ante Coric being on the verge of a transfer to Roma, Bjelica will have a lot of "must-buy" items on his shopping list, not only to make Dinamo Zagreb competitive in the UEFA Champions League qualifiers but also to maintain the advantage over closest Croatian rivals.