• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

The victors: 15-year wait over for Maribor

THE future for Maribor now encompasses the lucrative field of the Champions League.

NK Maribor manager Ante Simundza, second from right, celebrates with goalscorer Tavares. Picture: SNS
NK Maribor manager Ante Simundza, second from right, celebrates with goalscorer Tavares. Picture: SNS

For such as Agim Ibraimi, the 25-year-old Macedonian midfielder, it may yet include a transfer with a permanent trip to Celtic a possibility. Ibraimi has been linked with a move to Glasgow and did little to discourage speculation about his future in the wake of his side's dramatic but deserved victory over the Scottish champions on Tuesday night.

The midfielder, who has played for Eskisehirspor in Turkey and on loan at Cagliari, is prepared to make another move.

He said he had received a call from his representatives informing him of Celtic's interests, adding: "I signed a new two-year contract 10 days ago, but you never know, everything could still change. The Celtic fans were incredible and if I got another chance then I would have to think about it."

But he admitted Maribor's progress to the Champions League group stages for the first time in 15 years gave him pause for thought.

"I have never played at that level before. This is a big opportunity for us and I think that as things are right now I will play with Maribor in the Champions league. I was once in Turkey and once in Cagliari. I have had the pressures before. I don't want to play football for money. I want to enjoy my football."

Maribor caused Celtic trouble on the counter-attack, with Tavares scoring the goal that condemned the Scottish champions to the Europa League.

"We said before the game that because of the euphoria of the crowd Celtic would have to score early," said Ibraimi. "If they didn't then the fans would create unbelievable pressure.

"This is how it turned out. They maybe thought it was going to be easy but we played very well and also had some luck."

There was also a method in how Maribor played, with the focus on holding the game scoreless and then pressing for a goal in the fourth quarter of the game.

Tavares, the 30-year-old Brazilian, credited a unlikely accomplice for the transition to the heaven of the group stages of the biggest club competition in the world.

"They had some chances as well but Jesus helped me to score a beautiful goal," he said. "We should have scored more. I had two or three chances personally and we could have beaten them by four goals."

He pointed out: "We have already had positive results against Rangers and Hibs and this gave us the motivation we needed to play against Celtic. Of course we deserved to win because we were prepared for this game.

"In the first leg we didn't put their defenders under much pressure but we certainly did this time and we did and they had problems - they couldn't pass and had to play the long ball.

"We watched what Legia Warsaw had done to them in their two games and that helped us."

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

257662