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Season review: Serbia

Published: Friday 25 May 2012, 12.58CET
FK Partizan were again the team to beat in 2011/12 as they recorded a fifth straight Serbian title success, while Belgrade rivals FK Crvena zvezda found consolation in the cup.
Season review: Serbia
Partizan had plenty to celebrate in 2011/12 ©Getty Images
Published: Friday 25 May 2012, 12.58CET

Season review: Serbia

FK Partizan were again the team to beat in 2011/12 as they recorded a fifth straight Serbian title success, while Belgrade rivals FK Crvena zvezda found consolation in the cup.

FK Partizan completed an unprecedented run of five consecutive league title successes in 2011/12. It was the 24th in the history of Belgrade's Crno-Beli (Black and Whites) and leaves them just one short of FK Crvena zvezda's total. Partizan also led the way in terms of coaching changes – Avram Grant replaced Aleksandar Stanojević midway through the campaign but resigned at the season's end and has been replaced by Vladimir Vermezović.

Champions: FK Partizan
Partizan built a ten-point gap over Crvena zvezda during the first half of the season and that ultimately proved decisive. Partizan won 14 of 15 games in the autumn, dropping just three points – in a 2-1 loss at FK Sloboda Užice in their second fixture. Sloboda, in fact, were the only team Partizan failed to beat given that they later held the champions 0-0 in Belgrade. Otherwise, Partizan were unstoppable, claiming 80 points from 30 matches with 67 goals scored and just 12 conceded. If they took fewer points in the second half of the season, the only real setback of Grant's reign came with their three successive derby defeats by Crvena zvezda, who beat Partizan home and away in the cup semi-finals and then posted a first away league win over the champions in five years.

Cup final: FK Crvena zvezda 2-0 FK Borac Čačak
After reaching the first Serbian Cup final in their history, relegated Borac failed to find redemption in the end as their more experienced opponents – and now 24-time national cup winners – prevailed 2-0. For Crvena zvezda coach Robert Prosinečki, it was his first trophy in his new role, and came 22 years after he won the Yugoslav Cup with the same club as a player. The showpiece was also notable for the fact that it was played in the southern city of Krusevac, the Football Association of Serbia having decided to stage the game outside of Belgrade for the first time to generate fresh interest.

European places*
FK Partizan – UEFA Champions League, second qualifying round
FK Crevan Zvezda – UEFA Europa League, second qualifying round
FK Vojvodina – UEFA Europa League, second qualifying round
FK Vojvodina – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the Year: Zvonimir Vukić (FK Partizan)
Now in his third spell at the club, the 32-year-old was a huge influence on Partizan's young side thanks to his experience and technical ability. A typical No10, he orchestrated the team's play from the middle of the pitch and also finished as their leading scorer with 13 goals. His strike in the November derby win at Crvena zvezda proved a decisive blow in the battle for the title.

One to watch: Lazar Marković (FK Partizan)
The 18-year-old made one substitute league appearance in 2010/11 but his breakthrough campaign came this year. Marković showed real promise, scoring six Super League goals, and he was rewarded with his first Serbia cap in the friendly against Armenia on 28 February. If his form dipped towards the season's end, it did not matter: courtesy of his speed and great ball control, he had done enough to ensure his was the name on people's lips in 2011/12.

Surprise package: FK Jagodina
Five years ago, Jagodina were in the fourth division, but this small club from the central Serbian city of the same name have enjoyed a meteoric rise, capped by their historic first qualification for Europe. Their ascendance owes much to the impressive cooperation between club officials and the local government, which has resulted in a modern stadium with strong support in the stands. On the pitch, meanwhile, Simo Krunić, formerly Javier Clemente's assistant with the national team, instilled real confidence in the team and their 31 points in the second half of the campaign lifted them into fourth place.

Leading scorer: Darko Spalević, FK Radnički 1923 (19)

Relegated: FK Metalac and FK Borac Čačak

Promoted: FK Radnički Niš and FK Donji Srem

Number: 76
The number of goals scored by Partizan striker Lamine Diarra in five seasons with the club.

Quote
"I want to play, even if I am tired. Sometimes I think that I will play until I have just a gram of strength left in my body. The proof is that I am still angry when I lose in training." Partizan's 34-year-old captain Saša Ilić declares his desire to play on at the club where he has made 261 league appearances and scored 106 goals.

Last updated: 10/07/12 14.08CET

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