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Season review: Slovenia

Published: Monday 31 May 2010, 13.08CET
FC Koper became only the fifth club to take the Slovenian title since independence, while the Slovenian Cup went to the nation's most successful club, NK Maribor.
by Martin Pavčnik
from Ljubljana
Season review: Slovenia
Koper celebrate winning the Slovenian title ©Miha Vidrih/SiOL Sportal
Published: Monday 31 May 2010, 13.08CET

Season review: Slovenia

FC Koper became only the fifth club to take the Slovenian title since independence, while the Slovenian Cup went to the nation's most successful club, NK Maribor.

Before the 19th Slovenian championship since independence, all the talk was of NK Olimpija Ljubljana's ascent to the top division. Fans of the club that was dissolved due to debt in 2005 rallied around a new outfit, NK Bežigrad, as they tore up the lower leagues, taking the name of the capital's most popular team before they were promoted to the top division. They finished fourth in their first season back, with one-time Olimpija star Miran Pavlin helping FC Koper take the title.

Champions: FC Koper
Having been within minutes of being relegated last season, Koper were reborn under the leadership of veteran midfielder Pavlin, who as a player and sporting director brought reinforcements and a new mentality to the seaside club. The Kanarčki (Canaries) quickly morphed from rank outsiders to title challengers under coach Nedzad Okčič, with the likes of Pavlin, Dare Vršič, Mitja Brulc and Dalibor Radujko helping them overpower all comers, including titleholders NK Maribor.

Cup final: NK Maribor 3-2 NK Domžale
With the title already lost, Maribor rescued their season with a sixth Slovenian Cup success, though the final at the Ljudski Vrt Stadium was a testing one. Domžale led twice only to lose the game in the final seconds of extra-time as David Bunderla scored the winner. Maribor coach Darko Milanič thus held all three major national trophies – the league title, Slovenian Cup and Super Cup − but only for the seven days it took for Koper to be confirmed as champions.

European places*
FC Koper – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
NK Maribor – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
ND Gorica – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
NK Olimpija – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Miran Pavlin (FC Koper)
Pavlin turns 39 in October, but the 63-times capped midfielder is still fit enough to lead a team, on and off the pitch. His spirit and ambition underpinned Koper's title charge, and he was no slouch on the pitch either, where his assists, technique and reputation made the former FC Porto man a huge asset. Eleven goals in his 30 games showed that the one-time Slovenia captain still knows how to score, too.

One to watch: Jan Oblak (NK Olimpija Ljubljana)
With the likes of Samir Handanovič, Vid Belec and Jan Koprivec all registered with Italian clubs, Slovenia is in something of a golden age for goalkeepers, with Oblak the latest prodigy. Just 16 at the start of the season, he conceded 28 times in 33 league games, showing excellent skills and receiving plenty of attention from scouts.

Surprise package: NK IB Ljubljana
Not a surprise for the right reason, Interblock Ljubljana were tipped to challenge for the title, but ended the season losing a promotion/relegation play-off 4-0 on aggregate to NK Triglav Kranj − runners-up in the second tier. Having won the cup last season, owner Joc Pečečnik fielded top stars like Ermin Rakovič, Danijel Brezič, Dejan Gerič, but with many top players fired after results failed to materialise, youngsters were blooded in the latter stages.

Leading scorer: Milan Osterc, ND Gorica (23)

Promoted: NK Primorje, NK Triglav Kranj

Relegated: NK Drava, NK IB Ljubljana

Number: 15
Koper were undefeated for 15 matches in a row, from the 19th to the 33rd round. They lost against Olmpija, two matches after they secured the title.

"There is no distinction on young and old players; there are only good and bad players."
Koper's 38-year-old midfielder and sporting director Pavlin explains his anti-ageist philosophy

Last updated: 01/06/10 19.09CET

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