Maribor secure memorable win against Panathinaikos

NK Maribor 3-0 Panathinaikos FC
The Slovenian side earned their first ever UEFA Europa League group stage win thanks to an impressive display against the visitors.

Maribor striker Tavares (right) vies for possession against Panathinaikos
Maribor striker Tavares (right) vies for possession against Panathinaikos ©AFP/Getty Images

NK Maribor claimed their first group stage win in the UEFA Europa League, overcoming Panathinaikos FC thanks to an eye-catching performance at the Stadion Ljudski vrt.

Robert Berić's 25th-minute strike put Maribor in the driving seat before an impressive second-half display put paid to the visitors' hopes of a comeback. Further goals from Agim Ibraimi and captain Tavares ensured Maribor made the perfect start to their Group J campaign.

The Slovenian side began positively in front of their home crowd, Ibraimi bringing a smart early save from Orestis Karnezis and Tavares dragging wide from the edge of the area.

The hosts would not have to wait long to open the scoring. Tavares was granted space in front of the Panathinaikos defence and slipped an astute pass to the lurking Berić, who slammed a shot past Karnezis.

With midfielders Vitolo and Kostas Katsouranis occupied with the Maribor threat, Jesualdo Ferreira's side were largely restricted to raids down the right from full-back Loukas Vyntra. As a result, they struggled to provide support to forward Lazaros Christodoulopoulos.

Panathinaikos did rally briefly after the interval but were left with a mountain to climb when Maribor doubled their lead just after the hour mark. Tavares was heavily involved once more, his attempted cross falling to Ibraimi, whose quickly-taken shot flashed past Karnezis.

With full time approaching, Tavares got the goal his performance so richly deserved, converting from the penalty spot after being brought down by Ibrahim Sissoko. A second yellow card for Nikos Spyropoulos in added time compounded Panathinaikos's misery.