Three points from six matches. And many priceless things on top of that. The story of Maribor’s involvement in the Champions League is one that has brought us nothing but joy. Let’s talk about the Sevilla match and the group stage as a whole.
Head coach Darko Milanič on our final game: “It was a great match. I’m very pleased with how the boys played, and with the team spirit, tenacity, ingenuity and defensive awareness they displayed. We were causing a strong Sevilla team a lot of problems. In the first half, we completely cut them off and were very dangerous from counter attacks. But we knew the second half would be a lot harder. They had a great chance right after the break, but Handanović saved us. With the quality they possess and with the ball in their possession for the most part, they tired us and were looking for a way through, which they managed to find once. We were a much bigger threat in the first half, but we lost a lot of energy defending. And when we wanted to push higher, we left too much space at the back, which the guests were able to exploit.”
What about the experience in the group stage as a whole? “One match in this year’s Champions League season helped us find the way to be able to stand up to the best teams in the world. We are demonstrating a real closeness and willingness to work hard in every match, which is what makes us good. In the beginning, people who didn’t know us predicted the group standings would be what they are today. But we had different plans. And we’ve proven that we had solid foundations for that. We deserved more. Had we won that game against Spartak, we would be playing European football after Christmas as well. Unfortunately, the Champions League is over for us at a stage when it is obvious that we’re in great form. We could have won each of the three drawn matches, but we’re proud of our achievement nonetheless.”
All for one, one for all. We also witnessed an individual milestone yesterday, which will forever be written in purple history books. “I’m very happy for Tavares, who scored his first goal in the group stage after setting all those records and scoring all those goals in the qualifiers. I’m sorry he didn’t score more. He really deserved it, and everyone at the club believes there are more goals to come.”
Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words or add anything meaningful, but it’s safe to say that we won’t stop here. We will find new challenges for the future.
“As athletes, we must always set new goals. It’s vital that we take care of everything on a daily basis to be where we are. This is a good indicator of how we must act, and a reminder that we must keep the current dressing-room atmosphere, which is not something you can take for granted, but must work hard to achieve. And with that, everything is possible.”
Thank you to the players, the coach, the staff and everyone at the club for a marvellous 2017!