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Zürich fightback flattens Maribor

NK Maribor 0-3 FC Zürich (agg: 3-5)
The Swiss titleholders overturned their first-leg home defeat through goals from Dušan Djurić, Xavier Margairaz and Adrian Nikci.

Dušan Djurić started the ball rolling for Zürich in Maribor
Dušan Djurić started the ball rolling for Zürich in Maribor ©AFP

FC Zürich undid the damage of a 3-2 first-leg home defeat by crushing NK Maribor 3-0 at a sold-out Ljudski vrt Stadium. Dušan Djurić, Xavier Margairaz and Adrian Nikci got the goals for the Swiss titleholders who moved within one step of a first appearance in the UEFA Champions League group stage.

Marked improvement
Maribor's success in Zurich a week earlier had raised hopes of the club returning to the group stage a decade after their one previous participation and they took the field to a terrific atmosphere. However, Bernard Challandes' visitors had learned their lesson from the first leg and produced a markedly improved performance. Needing to win by at least two clear goals to progress, they got their first after 21 minutes when Milan Gajić's pass left Djurić with just home goalkeeper Marko Ranilovič to beat and he finished confidently.

Leoni barrier
That goal sparked Maribor into life but their forwards could not find a way past Zürich's impressive goalkeeper, Johnny Leoni. Instead, shortly after Leoni had denied Maribor striker Marcos, the visitors got their second goal in the 44th minute, Johan Vonlanthen, a first-leg scorer, turned provider as he fed Margairaz who fired in from inside the box.

Vonlanthen assists
Maribor now needed a goal to stay in the competition and Darko Milanic's side pushed forward in the second period but the visitors' defence stood firm – no one more so than goalkeeper Leoni, who had been absent from the first leg. Zürich then made certain of their place in the play-off round with 14 minutes remaining as Vonlanthen set up substitute Adrian Nikci to make it 3-0.