Keeper Kalinic is feeling the heat

By Phil Jennings

LOVRE KALINIC has not had the best of months since joining Villa in January from Belgian side Gent.

Not only has the keeper lost his place in Dean Smith’s side lost his place to Jed Steer – who was recalled from a loan spell in League One with Charlton, the £6million man has been dealt a blow at International level too.Kalinic was part of Croatia’s squad for the 2018 World Cup where they beat England only to lose to France in the final.

Danijel Subašić was the first choice stopper during last summer’s tournament but after his retirement, Kalinic has been No1 for national team boss Zlatko Dalić.

Kalinic made his Croatia debut in 2013 and the 28-year-old has made 18 appearances for his country so far, conceding 23 goals and keeping four clean sheets in the process.

His last clean sheet was against Mexico in March 2018 and Croatian newspaper 24Sata has come up with statistics which show Kalinic has conceded 1.39 goals per match, the ‘worst average in the history’ of the national team.

Subašic has the best record as he has conceded 0.67 goals per game, while Stipe Pletikos and Dražen Ladić stand at 0.8 and 0.9 respectively.

It means Kalinic has been put under pressure by his home country.

But Dalic said: “Kalinic was our first goalkeeper and we did not want to move him from the post. I take responsibility because I put him there.”

Croatia lost their opening Euro 2020 qualifier to Hungary 2-1 but then beat Azerbaijan by the same scoreline. Kalinic was in goal for both games.

But ex-Croatia and Southampton keeper Ivan Katalinić says the Villa player should not be blamed for his recent form.

Katalinić said: “Kalinic now cannot be blamed for defeat to Hungary. The biggest problem before the game was to say who would defend and when the player reads it, he starts to doubt himself.

“Against poorer or less quality, goalkeepers must be highly motivated. Players often think ‘we are better and it will be easy’ but as a goalkeeper you can never.

You’re the last line of defence, you just have to do the job right. For big games everyone is there anyway, nobody’s motivation is a problem.”

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