Grand final crux for Croatia

Melbourne Croatia coach Kenny Murphy, preparing for his first national league grand final on Sunday, has a clearer idea about his opposition, Adelaide City, than he has about his own team.

The Zebras will take a settled line-up into the title decider at Olympic Park, with the only doubt being whether veteran mid-fielder Sergio Melta will start the game.

But Murphy has a difficult task sifting through the strongest squad in the league. One competitive match in the past five weeks has not helped, and for the first time this season, the coach has his full list of 16 senior players to choose from.

The key selection dilemma concerns experienced players Branko Milosevic and Paul Donnelly, both of whom are back to full fitness after injury problems. Murphy has yet to decide whether to include one or both of these veterans at the expense of the players who won the major semi-final two weeks ago. Import Vlado Vanis and utility Damien Mori would seem to be under the most pressure.

The other important decision for Murphy is whether to promote rookie Ollie Pondlejak to the striker’s role ahead of the out-of-form Ivan Kelic, who missed the decisive penalty in last season’s grand final.

* Meanwhile in Europe, the Ukraine lost their first-ever international at home to Hungary, fellow newcomers Lithuania earned their first World Cup points in a 2-2 draw away with Northern Ireland, and England and the CIS shared a similar scoreline in a fiendly in Moscow.

In other midweek results, Wales and Austria drew 1-1 in Vienna, Ireland thrashed the US 4-1 in Dublin, and Torino were held 2-2 at home to Ajax Amsterdam in the first leg of the UEFA Cup final.

Michael Cockerill
Sydney Morning Herald

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