BELGRADE, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Serbian champions and front-runners Partizan Belgrade lost their first league game of the season on Sunday after a 2-1 defeat at Vojvodina Novi Sad while city foes Red Star hammered Spartak Subotica 5-0.
Striker Dragan Mrdja sparkled in Red Star’s home win with a first half hat-trick, delighting 7,000 fans on a rainy evening with quickfire goals in a blistering 10-minute spell.
The results left Partizan in top spot with 16 points from seven games, two more than neighbours Cukaricki who lost 2-1 at Napredak Krusevac, and three ahead of 1991 European Cup winners Red Star.
Fourth-placed Vojvodina, who have a game in hand, are four points off the pace after a late own goal by Partizan defender Marko Zivkovic settled a rain-soaked derby in northern Serbia.
Striker Petar Skuletic headed Vojvodina into a 73rd minute lead before Nemanja Kojic equalised with a scuffed shot on the slippery surface that crept in under the home team’s Croatian keeper Matej Delac.
Mrdja’s downward header on 10 minutes set the tone for the rip-roaring blitz and the former Serbia international added the second when he side-footed home a rebound. He then steered the ball into an empty net after a defence-splitting pass by right back Marko Vesovic.
Nigerian striker Abiola Dauda netted the fourth with a piledriver from 25 metres in the 78th minute before captain Nenad Milijas sealed the rout with a superb free kick, leaving Red Star’s under-fire coach Slavisa Stojanovic purring with delight.
“We sat back a bit in the second half but overall I am delighted with the performance,” the 43-year old Slovenian, who barely kept his job after last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at promoted Vozdovac Belgrade, told Arenasport television in a pitch-side interview.
“The team needs to keep work harder to improve because we can’t afford any more setbacks.”
(Editing by Tony Goodson)