By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE, May 5 (Reuters) - Former European Cup winners Red
Star Belgrade beat champions and city rivals Partizan 1-0 after
substitute Cadu Mendes lit up a tepid derby with a superb
stoppage-time winner on Saturday.
The Brazilian forward unleashed a scorching shot from 20
metres into the bottom right corner to give Red Star their first
away league win over Partizan since 2007, but one which came
with only local pride and bragging rights at stake.
Partizan clinched a record fifth successive league title and
their 24th overall last week with three games to spare and were
expected to treat their fans to an entertaining performance
against Red Star.
Their coach Avram Grant instead opted for a cagey 4-5-1
formation which suffered a third successive defeat by their
bitter city foes under the Israeli, having lost last month's cup
semi-final 4-0 on aggregate.
The champions still had the better chances but like in the
previous two derbies, poor finishing and the woodwork denied
them and left their fans stunned after the final whistle.
Midfielder Stefan Babovic twice fired high and wide from
close range in the first half for Partizan and left back
Aleksandar headed a teasing cross against the post on the hour.
With passes largely going astray as neither side showed much
appetite for attacking football, it seemed all the fireworks
would be confined to the terraces where both sets of fans lit
dozens of flares in either half.
Cadu then struck with the clock ticking to send the Red Star
end of the 25,000 crowd into raptures while the home fans jeered
Partizan's players off the pitch.
"It gives us a lot of satisfaction to have won three in a
row against Partizan and it will give us a plenty of confidence
for the title race next season," Red Star coach Robert
Prosinecki told a news conference.
"It is a tremendous confidence boost for this young team and
we are now looking forward to the cup final against Borac Cacak
on May 16 to end the season on a high," he said.
Grant said he was "proud of the way Partizan won the title"
although he was disappointed with Saturday's defeat.
"Red Star won the match with a fantastic shot in the last
minute but that doesn't change the fact that we've won the title
emphatically and once again played very well," he said.
"Like in the previous two derbies, we had no luck at all
while they made all their chances count, so I can't complain to
the players about anything because they did everything to win
Having failed to win the hearts of Partizan fans after three
poor performances against Red Star, Grant will in all likelihood
come under pressure if he fails to steer the club into the
Champions League group stages next season.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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