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Season review: Serbia

Published: Friday 20 June 2014, 8.02CET
FK Crvena zvezda brought an end to FK Partizan's winning streak in the league while two-time champions FK Vojvodina finally won the first national cup in their history.
by Aleksandar Bošković
from Belgrade
Season review: Serbia
Slaviša Stojanović guided his Crvena Zvezda side to the title ©Getty Images
Published: Friday 20 June 2014, 8.02CET

Season review: Serbia

FK Crvena zvezda brought an end to FK Partizan's winning streak in the league while two-time champions FK Vojvodina finally won the first national cup in their history.

FK Partizan's run of six straight titles ended as FK Crvena zvezda once more moved in front in the all-time champions list, with 26 crowns to Partizan's 25. FK Vojvodina, meanwhile, avenged their 2012/13 defeat by FK Jagodina to lift their first Serbian Cup.

Champions: FK Crvena zvezda
A sequence of 15 Super League wins midway through the season was a measure of Crvena zvezda's potency under Slaviša Stojanović, the coach going on to earn his first championship in his native Serbia, having previously triumphed in Slovenia with NK Domžale. Key to their success was the experience of captain Nenad Milijaš and two players who returned home at the start of the campaign, midfielder Miloš Ninković and forward Dragan Mrdja. They whipped their younger team-mates into shape and celebrated clinching the title with a game to spare following a 4-2 victory against OFK Beograd – in front of a 50,000 crowd.

"Our great desire and strong collective ethic – particularly during the winter break – made us champions," concluded Stojanović. "Everybody at the club, the supporters too, deserves this, because we really were the best this season."

Cup final: FK Vojvodina 2-0 FK Jagodina
When Jagodina and Vojvodina met in last year's final for the first time in their history, it looked like a once-in-a-lifetime event. Jagodina prevailed 1-0 to claim their first major piece of silverware, but it was Vojvodina's turn this time. Enver Alivodić (41) and 18-year-old central defender Srdjan Babić (52) scored as the Novi Sad outfit found a fitting way to mark the death of one of their most notable figures – coach Vujadin Boškov – a few days earlier.

"Vojvodina have won two titles but the cup was always a mission impossible for us," said Vojvodina coach Branko Babić, who resigned at the end of term. "This young group kept their emotions and won it with their heads."

European places*
FK Partizan – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
FK Vojvodina – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
FK Jagodina – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
FK Čukarički – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

* Subject to final confirmation from UEFA; FK Crvena zvezda excluded for breaches of financial fair play rules

Player of the year: Miloš Ninković (FK Crvena zvezda)
Chelsea FC's Branislav Ivanović received the official national player of the year award in December 2013, but the 29-year-old Ninković was the Super League's standout player. A typically Balkan midfielder and playmaker, his skill and experience spelled success in his first season back in Serbia following a long stint at FC Dynamo Kyiv, whose legendary former coach Valeriy Lobanovskiy signed him in 2004. It was vindication for Ninković, who left Crvena zvezda's academy at 17, making a name for himself with their more modest Belgrade rivals FK Čukarički.

One to watch: Andrija Živković (FK Partizan)
Partizan's conveyor belt of talent has produced the likes of Zoran Tošić (PFC CSKA Moskva), Adem Ljajić (AS Roma), Lazar Marković (SL Benfica), Miralem Sulejmani (SL Benfica), Aleksandar Mitrović (RSC Anderlecht) and Miloš Jojić (Borussia Dortmund) in recent years. Attack-minded midfielder Živković has the look of another fine one for the future. His expert dribbling and passing prompted Serbia to make him their youngest-ever international, coming on against Japan in October 2013 three months to the day after his 17th birthday.

Surprise package: FK Čukarički
The club from the Belgrade suburbs have got used to ups and downs in the last two decades; one or two years in the top flight, then relegation, then promotion, and so on. However, after rejoining the elite this term, Čukarički gave an invigorating example of how to survive comfortably on a low budget. Kudos to coach Vladan Milojević, a defender who enjoyed a successful spell in Greece with Panathinaikos FC and Iraklis FC at the turn of the millennium, for leading them to fifth in the table.

Leading scorer: Dragan Mrdja, FK Crvena zvezda (19)

Relegated: FK Sloboda Užice, FK Javor

Promoted: FK Mladost Lučani, FK Borac

Number: 16 years and 155 days
Crvena zvezda forward Luka Jović's age when he scored on his debut at Vojvodina on 28 May, breaking the record for the youngest league marksman set by Dejan Stanković, the ex-SS Lazio and FC Internazionale Milano midfielder.

Quote: "If we lose the title, I will return all my year's salary. I have come here to help, not to take the money and go without the championship."
Crvena zvezda midfielder Miloš Ninković upon arriving at the club last summer; luckily, he did not need to act on his promise

Last updated: 21/06/14 16.30CET