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Season review: Slovenia

Published: Monday 24 June 2013, 9.28CET
NK Maribor wrapped up their 11th Slovene First League title after overcoming rivals NK Olimpija Ljubljana 2-1 and completed a memorable season by lifting the Slovenian Cup.
by Rok Šinkovc
from Ljubljana
Season review: Slovenia
Maribor playmaker Agim Ibraimi enjoyed a fine season ©Getty Images
Published: Monday 24 June 2013, 9.28CET

Season review: Slovenia

NK Maribor wrapped up their 11th Slovene First League title after overcoming rivals NK Olimpija Ljubljana 2-1 and completed a memorable season by lifting the Slovenian Cup.

Another dominant season from NK Maribor yielded an 11th title, and the defending champions went on to secure a fourth double, overcoming NK Celje in a repeat of the 2012 Slovenian Cup final. Darko Milanič's team also made progress in Europe by reaching the UEFA Europa League group stage, winning once against Panathinaikos FC before coming bottom of a section completed by SS Lazio and Tottenham Hotspur FC.

Champions: NK Maribor
Slovenia's most eminent club produced another peerless performance on all fronts to clinch a third consecutive First League crown, finishing eight points clear of nearest rivals NK Olimpija Ljubljana. Coach Milanič played a key role in their success, instilling a strong sense of identity and understanding among his players. Ante Čačić has big boots to fill after replacing SK Sturm Graz-bound Milanič in June.

Cup final: NK Celje 0-1 NK Maribor
Victorious on penalties 12 months ago, the champions made the breakthrough when Macedonian international Agim Ibraimi turned in Goran Cvijanović's cross. Celje had started the brighter, threatening twice, most notably in the 11th minute through Miha Zajc's free-kick. The triumph was Maribor's eighth in 22 editions of the domestic cup competition, four more than any other side.

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

*subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Agim Ibraimi (NK Maribor)
The 24-year-old midfielder gave a string of eye-catching displays and proved a player for the big occasion by scoring the winner in the cup final. He also weighed in with six league goals and encapsulated the spirit that often galvanised the team. Ibraimi was named Macedonian player of the year in 2012 and has registered four times in 20 international appearances. Expect some covetous glances from across Europe this summer.

One to watch: Miha Zajc (NK Celje) 
Touted as a player of vast potential, the 18-year-old lived up to expectations and emerged as one of the most prized talents in Slovenia. The attacking midfielder spent the first half of the campaign on loan at Olimpija and exploded onto the scene with two classy finishes against ND Mura 05.

Surprise package: NK Domžale 
Widely tipped for a season of struggle, the side from the suburbs of Ljubljana proved their doubters wrong under the astute leadership of coach Stevan Mojsilović and assistant Luka Elsner. A run of five wins from eight games at the midway stage paved the way for a third-place finish and a European spot.

Leading scorer: Marcos Tavares, NK Maribor (17)

Relegated: ND Mura 05, ND Aluminij

Promoted: NK Zavrč, NK Krka

Number: 442
Celje captain Sebastjan Gobec, 33, racked up his 442nd league outing, a top-flight record. 

Quote
"We are a global phenomenon. If you look at what proportion of the population attend matches – about every third villager goes to our games."
Zavrč president Roman Vuk basks in the glory of his team's unexpected promotion from Slovenia's second division

Last updated: 24/06/13 12.08CET

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