A couple of games in the Czech Republic followed by two more in Croatia including the 'Eternal Derby' in Split.
28th August Sparta Prague 3 PEC Zwolle 1 Europa League 16,612 (c. 2,000 away)
On a mostly mild evening in the Czech capital Sparta overcame a well supported Dutch team helped by some poor defending by the visitors.
This was Zwolle’s first venture into Europe and they brought a large number of fans who were lively at first but much quieter later.
Zwolle missed a couple of early chances, including one by their Czech striker, Necid, after which Sparta took control.
Certainly the somewhat inept Dutch defence aided them, illustrated by the second goal from Dockal who was allowed to drive forward and shoot home unchallenged.
A third followed in the second half and the visitors were just left with a late penalty, albeit deserved, to show for their efforts.
Sparta’s ultras, kept up the noise and their team go on to the group stage of the Europa League.
A good crowd turned out and your correspondent enjoyed a beer and sausage before the game.
29th August Vysocina Jihlava 0 Dinamo Ceske Budejovice 0 Czech Premier 2,980 (c. 10 away)
At least the ultras kept amused as the fans from Budejovice did a conga and the home ones produced some banners and kept singing.
But the game itself had limited appeal with few chances and it looked like both teams had settled for a point well before the end.
Bosnian Haris Harba did produce one threat but that was the exception.
I’d taken the train from Prague to Havlickuv Brod where I stayed at the Hotel Slunce.
From there you can take the train to Jihlava although as this was a 8.15pm kickoff there is no public transport back - so a taxi was the only return option.
Again the weather stayed dry and not too cold.
30th August Imotski 1 Inter Zapresic 4 Croatian 2.HNL c. 300 (no away)
From Prague to Split via Smartwings (not too smart without online check-in as there were long queues at the airport)
Then I picked up a rental car at a very busy Split airport for the drive to Imotski.
From Split I took the scenic route arriving about 30 minutes before the 5.30pm start.
The ground is certainly unusual and definitely picturesque being overlooked by a ruined fortress and a cliff face at one end.
It offers plenty of vantage points for watching the match from above without having to pay.
But I did and those inside, and outside, watched a tough outcome for the home side who had gone behind after about fifteen minutes following a free kick.
They did equalise right after the break and for a while they seemed to have the initiative.
But a sending off (last man) and a successful penalty turned the game towards Inter.
Striker Nestorovski scored his breakaway second and with the home side’s defence crumbling a fourth was added near the end.
The (elderly) home ‘ultras’ complained consistently but to no avail.
Afterwards I drove to the nearby Hotel Venezia for a meal and some beer while admiring the views.
31st August Hajduk Split 2 Dinamo Zagreb 3 Croatian Premier 20,000 (c. 500 away)
From Split to Trogir (a UNESCO heritage city), to be near the airport.
Then into Split over two hours before the start of the ‘Eternal Derby’.
The stadium (call it in the ‘Gothenburg Ullevi style’) was far from full although they did let in the visiting ‘Bad Blue Boys’ - who did their best to live up to their name.
There were some fine pre-game songs, some choreo and (I guess) the inevitable flag-burning.
The visiting ultras also managed to let off a couple of fireworks.
The game itself looked good for Hajduk, who needed a win to keep close to Dinamo at the top of the table, when they went ahead from an early Susic left footer.
They followed that with a Milic goal from a corner and all seemed good with the home support.
But gradually you sensed Dinamo would have a say and Algerian wide player Soudani proved a star as he supplied two crosses for Cop to convert.
As Hajduk ran out of steam Dinamo applied the coup de grace in the final minutes of added time with Soudani again on the left to deliver for Chilean sub. Henriquez to head in the winner, greeted as was their other goals, in silence.
Cue the home exodus - and I joined them on the road back to my hotel.
The next day I spent some time in the old town of Trogir with various other tourists (from driving around you soon notice visitors from countries such as:- the Netherlands, Germany, Russia, Slovenia and Italy).
Unfortunately the inclement rainy weather tended to preclude a long stay.
more pictures at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/2754968209