Monthly review: NK Publikum are putting pressure on champions NK Gorica in Slovenia's First League.
By Martin Pavcnik
Having made a flying start in defence of their Slovenian First League title, NK Gorica have seen their advantage whittled away over the last four weeks.
After the first weekend of October, Pavel Pinni's team were still unbeaten and seven points clear. However, going into the home game against FC Koper on 3 November, their lead over NK Publikum was down to a single point. A 2-0 victory improved matters, but Gorica's confidence may have been dented by their previous results - a 1-0 home defeat by Publikum on 17 November and the 4-0 loss at NK Ljubljana a fortnight later. They at least reached the Slovenian Cup semi-finals with a 4-2 extra-time victory at NK Domžale.
Publikum themselves will be ruing a missed opportunity after losing 1-0 at NK Drava on 23 October. Having disappointed in finishing outside the top six last season, they have since moved to their new Skalna Klet stadium - venue for Slovenia's 1-0 victory against Italy in October - and appointed Ivan Matkovic as coach. The fresh regime has produced immediate results, and they are in the cup semi-finals having ousted NK Olimpija Ljubljana on penalties.
NK Primorje, three points behind Publikum in third, are also proving a threat under Darko Milanic, who captained Slovenia at UEFA EURO 2000™. They remain unbeaten at home, with Publikum and NK Maribor among their victims in Ajdovscina. Maribor too have been on form and are level on points with Primorje. A run of three straight league wins included a 5-0 victory against NK Bela Krajina. They continued their defence of the cup as well, overcoming NK Mura 2-0 in the last-eight three days after beating the same opposition in the league.
Olimpija have been in erratic mood, although the return of striker Sebastjan Cimerotic has been a boost. Mura are also in the top six, but the league defeat by Maribor prompted Bojan Prasnikar's dismissal and Milan Miklavic's return as coach.
In the running too are Drava, Ljubljana and Domzale, all dangerous opponents for the top teams, but Koper's financial crisis has seen them struggle and they are just above the relegation zone, occupied by newcomers Bela Krajina and NK Zagorje. Second-division NK Nafta are the fourth cup semi-finalists after a 9-2 win against NK Dravograd.