Fans flock in as Partizan sinks Red Star to reach Serbian Cup final

A near-capacity 25,000 crowd turned out for a tense Belgrade derby at Partizan's stadium, with Bibras Natcho settling the match in the 58th minute.

Partizan's Bibras Natcho celebrates with teammates after scoring the winner.   -  REUTERS

Holders Partizan Belgrade prevailed over bitter city rivals Red Star 1-0 on Wednesday to reach the Serbian Cup final as fans were allowed to attend games in unrestricted numbers for the first time since the coronavirus halted soccer in the Balkan nation in mid-March.

A near-capacity 25,000 crowd turned out for a tense Belgrade derby in a familiar atmosphere at Partizan's stadium as both sets of fans lit flares and taunted each other, with Bibras Natcho settling the match in the 58th minute.

Natcho's close-range shot trickled through Red Star keeper Milan Borjan's arms into the net after dazzling footwork from striker Umar Sadiq, who left his marker flat-footed and squared the ball to the Israeli midfielder.

Sadiq was a handful all evening for Red Star's defenders, running past them almost at will and only a string of good saves from Borjan denied the towering Nigerian a goal.

Vojvodina Novi Sad won 1-0 at Cukaricki Belgrade earlier in the day to reach the final on June 24 when it will face Partizan.

Vojvodina, who won the Cup in 2014, advanced after Nemanja Covic turned in a Nikola Drincic cross in the 31st minute.

-Milosevic revels in sweet Belgrade derby win -

Beating bitter city foes Red Star in front of a packed home crowd made reaching the Serbian Cup final that much sweeter, Partizan head coach Savo Milosevic said.

“I thank the fans for their fantastic support and it was great to grind out this win in front of a full house,” a delighted Milosevic told a news conference after Bibras Natcho's 58th-minute winner settled the contest.

“Having that kind of support was absolutely imperative today. It was great to see a near-capacity crowd after such a long barren spell.”

The Serbian league resumed on May 29 behind closed doors, with Red Star clinching the league title with three games to spare on the 29th anniversary of its 1991 European Cup triumph.

“I think we did pretty well in a very tough match and reaffirmed that when the going gets tough, the tough get going,” said the former Yugoslavia striker, who won the English League Cup with Aston Villa in 1996.

“It was tense, tempers flared here and there but no one crossed any lines and credit to Red Star too for their sportsmanlike behaviour."

Red Star coach Dejan Stankovic, who won the 2010 Champions League with Inter Milan, was disappointed.

“We left it all out there but it was a poor performance and I take responsibility,” he said.

“I dont want to rip into the lads because they are already gutted. We lacked patience and a more adventurous approach.”

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