BELGRADE, April 14 (Reuters) - Former European Cup winners Red Star Belgrade edged closer to a record 28th Serbian league title by beating champions and bitter city foes Partizan 2-1 on Saturday in yet another derby marred by crowd trouble.
Unruly scenes broke out midway through the second half in the west tier of Red Star’s Rajko Mitic stadium, when rival fans ripped up seats and hurled them at each other before riot police moved in.
Play resumed after being suspended for five minutes as the officials and players stood on the pitch and waited for the situation to be brought under control.
Plagued by a history of violence down the years, the fixture for once appeared to be headed for an incident-free climax before the clashes broke out.
Parents with young children were forced to flee as seats and flares were hurled.
“Regrettably, the Belgrade derby has once again sent an ugly picture to the audience at home and abroad,” Partizan coach Miroslav Djukic told a news conference.
Red Star coach Vladan Milojevic said: “It was a very unpleasant situation and it’s a pity that the crowd trouble took away some of the derby joy for the players because this is not what we want to see.”
A scuffle also broke out on the pitch after Ognjen Ozegovic netted a stoppage-time penalty for Partizan, with his team mate Seydouba Souma and Red Star’s Mitchell Donald being sent off by referee Danilo Grujic after the melee.
With six games left, the result left 1991 European Cup winners Red Star top nine points clear of second-placed Partizan, who also have 27 league titles and look certain to fall behind in the perennial battle of Serbia’s big two.
Nemanja Radonjic gave Red Star a 19th-minute lead with a classy first-time shot which went in off the post.
Aleksandar Pesic doubled their advantage two minutes later with a superbly dinked finish from close range after a flowing move, sparking more wild celebrations among the home team’s faithful.
Radonjic, whose performance will have boosted his hopes of getting into Serbia’s squad for the June 14-July 15 World Cup, gave his markers a roasting all evening as Red Star continued to pile on the pressure.
Comoros striker El Fardou Ben missed two sitters for Red Star in the latter stages of the opening half, with Partizan struggling to get out of their own half.
Partizan came out with more purpose in the second half but could only manage a late consolation goal after Red Star’s former striker Ozegovic sent keeper Milan Borjan the wrong way with his spot kick. (Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editng by Clare Fallon)