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Season review: Slovenia

Published: Tuesday 29 May 2012, 19.30CET
NK Maribor wrapped up their tenth Slovene league title in style with an emphatic 8-0 victory against ND Triglav, before completing a memorable season by lifting the Slovenian Cup.
by Rok Šinkovc
from Ljubljana
Season review: Slovenia
Maribor won the double and played in this season's UEFA Europa League group stage ©Getty Images
Published: Tuesday 29 May 2012, 19.30CET

Season review: Slovenia

NK Maribor wrapped up their tenth Slovene league title in style with an emphatic 8-0 victory against ND Triglav, before completing a memorable season by lifting the Slovenian Cup.

NK Maribor's dominant season culminated in a tenth Slovene league title, before the defending champions secured a domestic double, overcoming NK Celjie in an action-packed Slovenian Cup final.

Champions: NK Maribor
Slovenia's most eminent club produced another peerless performance on all fronts to secure a UEFA Champions League qualifying berth. In an unprecedented season, Maribor accumulated a league-high points haul of 85 and finished a record-breaking 20 clear of closest pursuers NK Olimpija Ljubljana. Key to their success was coach Darko Milanič, whose consistent team selection instilled a strong sense of identity and understanding among his players.

Cup final: NK Celje 2-2 NK Maribor (Maribor win 3-2 on pens)
Having already won the Slovene First League a month earlier, Maribor were favourites heading into the final against a team that finished 48 adrift in the league. They did not have it all their own way, though, and despite dominating possession and territory, trailed twice. However, the score was 2-2 after 120 minutes and only penalties could separate the teams. Celje suffered heartbreak as Maribor goalkeeper Marko Pridigar saved decisively from Matej Centrih to earn his side a 3-2 shoot-out win.

European places*
NK Maribor – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
NK Olimpija Ljubljana – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
ND Mura 05 – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
NK Celje – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the Year: Dare Vršič (NK Olimpija Ljubljana)
The diminutive midfielder produced a string of eye-catching performances although his efforts proved in vain as Maribor won the title at a canter. Capped 12 times by Slovenia, the 27-year-old ended the season as the league's top goalscorer having found the net on 22 occasions. Fans of FK Austria Wien will have the opportunity to marvel at Vršič's poise and eloquent touch next term, however, after the Austrian team secured his services on a four-year deal.

One to watch: Matej Pučko (FC Koper)
Touted as a player of vast potential, Pučko lived up to expectations and emerged as one of the most prized talents in Slovenia. With wisdom beyond his years, Pučko proved a creative spark in Koper's midfield and his assurance in possession and steely determination earned him a call-up to the Slovenia Under-19 side.

Surprise package: ND Mura 05
On their return to the top flight, Mura were widely tipped for a season of struggle; four losses from their opening six matches gave credence to such suggestions. However, under the astute leadership of coach Ante Šimundža, the side hailing from the region of Prekmurje, proved their doubters wrong. A run of six consecutive victories at the midway stage paved the way for a third-placed finish and a European spot.

Leading scorer: Dare Vršič, NK Olimpija Ljubljana (22)

Relegated: NK Nafta, ND Triglav

Promoted: NK Aluminij, NK Roltek Dob

Number: 8
The number of goals scored by Maribor in their title-clinching victory against Triglav; their biggest win for seven years.

Quote
"Next season the difference between Maribor and other Slovene First League clubs will be even bigger. I am proud of such a margin."
Maribor director of football Zlatko Zahovič states his ambitions for next season.

Last updated: 10/07/12 14.25CET

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