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Season review: Slovenia

Published: Wednesday 22 June 2011, 11.19CET
NK Maribor claimed their second title in three seasons and ninth in all but missed out on the double as NK Domžale edged a seven-goal thriller to claim their first Slovenian Cup.
by Rok Šinkovc
from Ljubljana
Season review: Slovenia
Marcos Tavares scored 16 league goals for Maribor in their title-winning season ©Getty Images
Published: Wednesday 22 June 2011, 11.19CET

Season review: Slovenia

NK Maribor claimed their second title in three seasons and ninth in all but missed out on the double as NK Domžale edged a seven-goal thriller to claim their first Slovenian Cup.

NK Maribor won their second title in three seasons and ninth in all but missed out on the domestic double, losing a seven-goal thriller against NK Domžale as they claimed their maiden Slovenian Cup triumph.

Champions: NK Maribor
Runners-up last term, Maribor made an excellent start to the season and held an 11-point lead at the top after 20 games. That cushion dwindled in the second half of the season, yet the Purple Boys secured a ninth title in 20 years of Slovenian top-flight football with a game to spare. "We have had a wonderful season; all the guys deserve a lot of praise," said Maribor coach Darko Milanič. "We wanted this trophy so much, but sometimes when you have a task to do, you can get a mental block."

Cup final: NK Domžale 4-3 NK Maribor
Domžale lifted the Slovenian Cup for the first time in a real contender for game of the season. The match had goals, penalties, red cards and no little excitement. Domžale defied their tag as underdogs and prevailed thanks to two goals from former Maribor player Damir Pekič. "It was a really nice celebration of football from the country's two best teams," said victorious coach Darko Birjukov. "The Slovenian Cup was the only trophy missing from the Domžale cabinet and I'm glad we finally won it under my leadership."

European places
NK Maribor – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
NK Domžale – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
FC Koper – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
NK Olimpija Ljubljana – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

Player of the year: Marcos Tavares (NK Maribor)
The Brazilian, 27, took on the captain's armband at the beginning of the season and led his side to silverware in emphatic style. Tavares scored 16 league goals, including hat-tricks against NK Nafta and ND Gorica, and declared his love for the city by telling fans he will live in Maribor with his wife and four children at the end of his career.

One to watch: Robert Berič (NK Maribor)
The 19-year-old striker stepped up from the second division and scored eight goals despite being mostly used from the bench. Berič made his Slovenian Under-21 debut against Hungary in October and Maribor may have a tough task preventing him from following in the footsteps of the likes of Josip Iličič and Armin Bačinovič who joined Serie A club US Città di Palermo 12 months ago.

Surprise package: NK Domžale
Few expected Domžale to be competing for domestic honours this season let alone winning silverware: the team from the Ljubljana suburbs surprised everyone. Birjukov brought enthusiasm and belief to a side that clinched the Slovenian Cup and finished second in the league.

Leading scorer: Marcos Tavares, NK Maribor (16)

Number: 2,915
Minutes defender Mitja Viler played for Maribor – more than any other player in the squad – having joined from 2009/10 champions FC Koper last summer.

Relegated: NK Primorje

Promoted: NK Mura 05*
*Mura finished fourth in the second division but go up after the three clubs above them declined promotion. It meant a reprieve for second-from-bottom NK Nafta.

Quote
"This year we achieved what probably not even Manchester United, Barcelona or Real Madrid could have done. Fifteen players left this season and even without them we managed to lift the Slovenian championship!"
Director of football Zlatko Zahovič revels in Maribor's title triumph

Last updated: 09/12/12 6.44CET

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