June 10, 2020 / 8:30 PM / a month ago

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

Soccer Football - Serbian Cup Semi-Final - Partizan v Crvena Zvezda - Partizan Stadium, Belgrade, Serbia - June 10, 2020 Crvena Zvezda's Milos Degenek takes a flare and carries it off the field, after Serbian authorities allowed play with fans following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) REUTERS/Marko Djurica

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Holders Partizan Belgrade beat 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.

Red Star, who won the league title with three games to spare on May 29, the 29th anniversary of their historic 1991 European Cup triumph, looked a pale shadow of the team that marched through Serbia’s 16-team top tier.

Their best chance came on the stroke of halftime when El Fardou Ben Nabouhane hit the woodwork with a fine free kick and Aleksa Vukanovic’s header into the back of the net from the rebound was disallowed for offside.

The visitors were fortunate not to concede more goals in the closing stages as they threw men forward, with substitute Seydouba Soumah and Sadiq going close for Partizan.

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

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

Reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ed Osmond

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