A goalless draw at Stadion Ljudski vrt sealed the narrowest of aggregate victories for Slovenian champions NK Maribor, who advanced to the UEFA Champions League play-offs on away goals at the expense of APOEL FC.
After last week's 1-1 draw in Nicosia, Maribor knew that they would progress if they were able to keep a clean sheet on home soil. Despite the occasional scare they managed just that, frustrating Paulo Sérgio's APOEL in the process.
The away side enjoyed the better of the early exchanges but it was Ante Čačić's hosts who created the first notable chance of the match, Tavares heading over on 13 minutes. The home captain then turned provider for Goran Cvijanovič, who angled a shot centimetres wide of the post at the end of a sweeping counterattack.
As it was, the best opportunity of the half fell at the other end to APOEL forward Esmaël Gonçalves. His effort just seconds before the interval appeared goal-bound, only for Maribor defender Mitja Viler to rescue his team with a last-ditch intervention.
The Cypriot title holders surged forward in the second period, yet despite going close through Gustavo Manduca and Gonçalves – who was later dismissed, with a straight red card, for a challenge on Aleš Mertelj – APOEL were unable to find the goal that would have settled this third qualifying round tie in their favour.
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