"The lads were exceptional," said coach Luigi Apolloni after ND Gorica overcame NK Maribor 2-0 to win the Slovenian Cup courtesy of substitute Francesco Finocchio's late double.
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Four days after losing to NK Maribor in their penultimate league match of the campaign, ND Gorica defied the odds to defeat the champions 2-0 and lift the Slovenian Cup.
Double winners in 2011/12 and 2012/13, Maribor were highly fancied to repeat the feat this season after wrapping up the Slovene First League title with two games to spare and reaching their fifth straight domestic cup decider. However, the Violets were rocked by two goals in the last 11 minutes from substitute Francesco Finocchio as Gorica claimed only the third cup crown in their history and their first in 12 years.
Finocchio, 22, was the hero at Bonfika Stadium, changing the course of the contest shortly after his introduction with a little under a quarter of an hour remaining. The on-loan Parma FC player raced on to Massimo Coda's pass to slip the opener between the legs of Jasmin Handanovič on 79 minutes. Late on – after more fine work by Coda – he took advantage of defender Arghus's lapse with a controlled finish.
"The lads were exceptional," said Gorica coach Luigi Apolloni. "They gave even more than usual and showed a lot of heart, playing very well to beat the champions. We needed a complete performance if we wanted to win, and I thank my colleagues and players who did their best. And this despite all the difficulties that have plagued us, especially early in the season. I'm so happy for the players."
"We had more of the play, but we did not take advantage of some good chances," rued Maribor coach Ante Šimundža. "Gorica punished our mistakes, I have to congratulate them. Nevertheless, we still had a great season, a season that will go down in the history of our club."