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Darko Milanič
Ccoach Darko Milanič successfully passed his Champions League coaching debut. Photo: Reuters

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Milanič pulled the right aces from his sleeves and reaps the fruit of his work

The Ljudski Vrt Stadium remains cursed for the Russians
14. September 2017 ob 11:35
Maribor - MMC RTV SLO

After three years the Champions League has returned to the Ljudski Vrt Stadium. But the home team is still waiting for its first victory in this elite football competition. The second half against Spartak was thrilling and instills optimism ahead of the even harder tasks that lie ahead.

Our expectations ahead of the match were that is was going to be a clash between two pragmatic coaches with very little goal opportunities. But we were totally wrong. Buying the ticket for the opening match of the Champions League turned out to be a very good investment. The Violets had 27 goal attempts, six of them on target. The first half was tactical but the 12,566 fans enjoyed a real European performance in the second half. The Slovenian champions shot 16 times towards Spartak’s goal. Damjan Bohar first hit the post and then scored to make it 1:1.

The Ljudski Vrt Stadium remains cursed for the Russians
The Russian champions played maturely. They had a big chance to make it 0:2, when Luiz Adriano and Fernando combined excellently. But towards the end of the match their play slackened and they even came close to going home empty handed. The Ljudski Vrt Stadium remains cursed for the Russians. At the same stadium eight years ago Russia was eliminated in a play-off match for the World Cup.

Milanič: The final result and our performance don’t go hand in hand
"I’m extremely pleased with our performance. But the final result and our performance don’t go hand in hand. We pulled off many good attacks and put pressure on our opponent in the second half. Everyone could enjoy Maribor’s performance. We held out well when our opponent had the upper hand, we played maturely and knew what we wanted. We had a few goal opportunities and the end mark is very positive. Of course, we are a little sad not to have won the match. We showed everyone that our statements made before the match were not just empty words. I’m not surprised that we had so many chances to score. We were very dangerous and when we’re on the run it’s not easy to stop us at all. We have a good play system, our game is diverse, we’re well balanced on both the right and left, and we also have many excellent players on the bench who are capable of changing the course of a match," explained coach Darko Milanič, who successfully passed his Champions League coaching debut.

Three excellent substitutions
After trailing 0:1, the 49-year-old coach from Izola sent Martin Kramarič and Jasmin Mešanović on to the pitch in the 69th minute. Ten minutes before the end he also sent in Aleks Pihler. Maribor showed its best in the final minutes of the match and even came close to winning when Bohar, who played in good form, missed the goal by only a few inches.

A. G., MMC; translated by K. J