NK Maribor may have lost their last game of the season 1-0 to NK IB Ljubljana, but that was not enough to spoil the celebrations at the Ljudski Vrt Stadium as Darko Milanič's side toasted their 1. Liga title success.
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NK Maribor may have lost their last game of the season 1-0 at home against NK IB Ljubljana, but that was not enough to spoil the celebrations at the Ljudski Vrt Stadium, with Darko Milanič's side having wrapped up the 1. Liga title race two weeks ago.
The list of clubs to have clinched the Slovenian crown remains limited to just four, with NK Olimpija Ljubljana having secured the first four titles following independence and NK Gorica also on four wins. NK Domžale were on top from 2006/07 to 2007/08 and Maribor have now finished first on eight occasions, having ended a six-year wait to add to the seven titles they won in consecutive seasons between 1996/97 and 2002/03.
''In June 2008 we made a plan and set a goal," said Milanič, who joined in the post-match festivities with the players and fans. "We worked hard and believed. Some supporters were already congratulating me in October when we went into the winter break as the leading team, but I knew that the spring would be difficult for us. I'd like to single out the great support of our fans; they were really our 12th man.'' Captain Zoran Pavlovič added: ''We managed to make a successful combination of experienced players and talented players. This title is proof that we did a good job.''
Maribor ended the season with 17 wins and 12 draws from 36 matches, giving them a total of 63 points and leaving them to look forward to UEFA Champions League qualifying next term. They finished with seven more points than runners-up Gorica, who along with third-placed NK Rudar Velenje can begin planning for UEFA Europa League qualifying. Slovenia's third side in the latter competition will be decided in Saturday's cup final between FC Koper and IB Ljubljana. Koper also face a relegation play-off, while NK Primorje have been relegated.