The 18th Slovenian season since independence turned out to be something of a one-horse race, NK Maribor claiming their eighth league title while pre-campaign favourites NK IB Ljubljana had to settle for the cup. The new season kicks off in July, with the arrival of second division champions NK Olimpija Ljubljana – who replace relegated NK Primorje – sure to create a big stir.
Champions: NK Maribor
The top scorer and team captain respectively in the Slovenia squad that impressed at UEFA EURO 2000™, Zlatko Zahovič and Darko Milanič joined forces again as sporting director and coach at Maribor to impressive effect. With 17 wins, 12 draws and seven defeats, the yellow-and-violets ended a six-year wait for their eighth title in emphatic style, having won seven in a row between 1997 and 2003. In their first full season following the renovation of their Ljudski Vrt Stadium, they hit top spot in autumn and never looked like losing it.
Cup final: FC Koper 1-2 NK IB Ljubljana
After hosting Maribor's title celebrations, the Ljudski Vrt Stadium also held the Slovenian Cup final, with IB Ljubljana making some amends for a miserable sixth-placed finish by retaining the cup. The pre-season title favourites went ahead through goals from Ermin Rakovič and Robert Berič and while Mitja Viler struck a splendid free-kick for 2007 cup winners Koper 15 minutes from time, there was no way back.
NK Maribor – UEFA Champions League, second qualifying round
IB Ljubljana – UEFA Europa League, second qualifying round
NK Gorica – UEFA Europa League, second qualifying round
NK Rudar Velenje – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
Player of the Year: Marcos Tavares (NK Maribor)
The Brazilian was Maribor's top scorer in 2008/09 with 15 league goals in 35 games, while he also provided eight assists to team-mates. Possessing enormous energy, the 25-year-old – signed last season after a spell in Cyprus with APOEL FC, having previously played league football in Malaysia – is understandably popular among the champions' fans.
One to watch: Etien Velikonja (NK Gorica)
NK Gorica already gave Slovenia the likes of Valter Birsa, Miran Burgič and Tim Matavž, and in 20-year-old Etien Velikonja they may have unearthed another international-class striker. Having scored five times in 2007/08, 17 league goals helped him top the charts this time round, with his instincts and touch helping Gorica finish as league runners-up. An Under-21 representative, his strength and striking ability are expected to flourish at a higher level.
Surprise package: NK Rudar Velenje
In their first season after winning promotion, the big task facing Marijan Pušnik's side was to avoid relegation, and that might have been in doubt when – lying seventh in the ten-team league at the winter break – they lost their Bosnian top scorer Edin Junuzović to Russia's FC Amkar Perm. The spring, however, brought an unexpected surge in form, and they finished third to earn a stab at the UEFA Europa League.
Leading scorer: Etien Velikonja, Gorica (17)
The total number of spectators who watched the 180 1. Liga games this season.
"Winning the championship is nice, but it is also a responsibility."
Zlatko Zahovič, Maribor sporting director.
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