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Maribor see off Željezničar in style

NK Maribor 4-1 FK Željezničar
Slovenia Under-21 midfielder Robert Berić scored twice as Maribor rallied from a goal behind to earn a commanding first-leg advantage.

Maribor's Robert Berić is mobbed by his team-mates
Maribor's Robert Berić is mobbed by his team-mates ©Drago Wernig/Taka

Trailing at the break, NK Maribor staged a spirited comeback to claim a comfortable UEFA Champions League second qualifying round first-leg victory against FK Željezničar thanks in part to a pair of goals from Robert Berić.

Darko Milanič's side struggled to deal with Željezničar's early intent but found their feet in the second half. Dejan Mezga converted a penalty in between Berič's double, before captain Marcos Tavares ensured Maribor will take a commanding lead into the return leg in Sarajevo on Tuesday.

The match was eight minutes old when Maribor's Agim Ibraimi missed the target and at the other end Eldin Adilović forced Vernes Selimović's curling free-kick past Jasmin Agović to give the visitors a shock lead. Stunned, the home team retreated into their shell and struggled to match their opponents' fluidity.

The ten-time Slovenian champions emerged after the break with renewed optimism and Željezničar were soon swamped by their brilliance. A star performer throughout, Berič equalised on 47 minutes, eluding his marker and converting Goran Cvijanovič's incisive pass with aplomb. A second goal arrived 20 minutes later, when Jadranko Bogičević felled Tavares in the area and Mezga deceived Marijan Antolović with a confident spot kick.

Cvijanovič was again the architect for Maribor's third, splitting Željezničar's frail defence for Berič to run through and claim his second. Not content with three, the home side continued to press forward and were rewarded for their adventure when Berič turned provider for Tavares to score from close range.