We sat down with the Sports Director to talk about the derby, the team’s performance and the atmosphere in the stands. We also discussed the status of this season’s leading scorer and players’ contract extensions.
“The impressions after the performance are positive. Derby matches are always interesting, and this one was even more specific because it was the first game of the second part of the season when you can’t expect to be in optimal form. On top of that, we were under even more pressure because when you play at home the fans understandably urge you to play more offensively. Our performance on the night was enough for a victory, but we’ll keep improving our form. There’s no doubt we can play much better and eventually we will. You could see everyone was under more pressure because it was the derby match, but we’re used to it by now. The boys know how to handle these things because of the valuable experience from the European competitions,” is how Zlatko Zahovič described the pleasant Saturday night.
Our head-to-head record with our biggest rival, which was already in our favour, improved even further.
“This encounter was a bit tricky because of the many changes to the opponent’s team. That’s why we went to see all of their test matches and analysed them closely. The coaching staff deserves a lot of praise for the way they prepared for the match. I know some people look at football very superficially. But those of us who have experienced it on the pitch build on that knowledge. In a derby match, technical errors are allowed, but tactical errors are a no go. And as far as that is concerned, we did well. Our head-to-head record with Olimpija speaks for itself and it’s no coincidence it leans so strongly in our favour. Anyone who has ever been involved in big matches will know what I’m talking about.”
We have also witnessed another proof of the now well-known tie between the team and the fans. Our motto ‘Together we are one’ holds true in every way.
“We must thank the fans for their support. They gave us that extra push the team needed. And the reaction from the team was spot on. We were organised, patient and we believed in ourselves. Maribor is able to score in any match. We have enough creative players in the team. We have the quality.”
The only goal of the derby match at Ljudski vrt was scored by Luka Zahović. The Sports Director revealed a positive piece of information with us regarding his contract status. He also announced other news that will ensure a bright future for our team: “Luka will not return to Heerenveen. We hold all the cards in our hands. In the case of any future transfers, Maribor is the one who will decide whether he will stay here or move abroad. We’ve also had successful preliminary talks with the players, whose contracts are running out at the end of the season and we’ve already reached an agreement with some of them. Tavares was the first to extend his contract, and now Šuler, Bohar and Ogrinec have followed suit. The first part is wrapped up; the second one is still to come.”
The derby, which gave us plenty of reasons to be pleased about, is now behind us.
“It’s time to move on. There are tough matches ahead and we won’t get complacent because of this victory. It’s an important victory, yes, but there’s still a lot of work to be done in the remainder of the season,” said the Sports Director, who also singled out Nejc Vidmar and his action after the final whistle.
“Olimpija’s captain came to apologise after the match. We accepted his apology because we believe he didn’t mean anything bad by what he did. He wanted to be funny but he went about it awkwardly and got himself in a bit of a jam. He was very restless during the match because of what he did in Turkey.”