No separating Zrinjski and Maribor

HŠK Zrinjski 0-0 NK Maribor The tie hangs in the balance after the Slovenian champions were held by their Bosnian counterparts, who finished the first leg with ten men.

There was little to choose between the teams in this tight encounter
There was little to choose between the teams in this tight encounter ©Fedja Krvavac

There is everything to play for in Slovenia next week after the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round first leg between HŠK Zrinjski and NK Maribor finished goalless.

Having participated in the play-offs for the last two seasons, Maribor were slim favourites to take an advantage into the return fixture. Their Bosnian opponents – appearing at this stage for the first time in five years – had other ideas, though, and ultimately neither team could gain a foothold in a tight contest.

The visitors started confidently and should have taken a 21st-minute lead. Dane Vrsič superbly picked out Agim Ibraimi, but the Macedonian slipped the ball narrowly past the upright when faced with goalkeeper Ratko Dujković. Having survived that scare, the hosts then had two opportunities before half-time. Danijel Stojanović shot straight at Maribor keeper Jasmin Handanovič from point-blank range and Velibor Djurić curled a free-kick just wide.

After the restart the well-positioned Jean-Philippe Mendy's weak connection provided a routine low save for Dujković, and he was close to ruing that when Mile Pehar headed just over the crossbar from Daniel Stojanović's centre.

Defence became the priority for the latter stages of the second half, particularly for the hosts, and though they avoided the concession of an away goal, Milan Muminović received his marching orders for a second yellow card in added time.

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