Clearly taking inspiration from a hockey team across the ocean, Dinamo Zagreb completed this week’s second noteworthy feat of coachless excellence when they stunned Tottenham 3-0 on Thursday, ejecting their opponents from the Europa League. While the Rangers beating the Flyers 9-0 was tremendously funny, Dinamo’s upset was even more impressive, as the stakes were higher and their coach was absent for a significantly wilder reason.
Spurs traveled to Croatia up 2-0 on aggregate, and they could have easily booked passage to the Europa League quarterfinals with a single goal. With a top-four position in the Premier League a dubious proposition, winning the Europa League was the best chance for Jose Mourinho’s squad’s to reach the Champions League next season. All Tottenham needed to do to advance was score one time, then not lose 4-1, or hold Dinamo under two goals, or do anything other than lose 3-0. But they did lose 3-0, despite fielding what was close to their strongest starting lineup. Mislav Orsic put three beauties past keeper Hugo Lloris, all after halftime, with the last coming in the second half of extra time. Orsic hit all of them hard as hell.
On its own, a loss like this would be funny. However, it’s even better since Dinamo’s manager Zoran Mamic had resigned this week after he received a prison sentence of nearly five years. Mamic spent the bookends of his playing career with Dinamo, and he rejoined the club in 2019 for a second stint managing the club. That gig ended on Monday, when the Croatian Supreme Court sentenced him to four years and eight months in prison for fraud. The court ruled that Mamic and his brother Zdravko had embezzled $18 million from the club in 2008 during the course of a pair of high-profile transfers. Mamic professed his innocence, but resigned immediately. Assistant Damir Krznar stepped up in his stead for this week’s game.
In a final, cruel twist of fate, the most significant of the transfers that got Mamic into trouble was Luka Modric’s $23 million move to Tottenham Hotspur. So the North London club did this to themselves, in the least direct way possible.