The Belgrade giants outstripped local rivals FK Partizan to claim a place in the second qualifying round of the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League, with second-placed Partizan, third-placed FK Železnik and cup runners-up FK Buducnost Banatski Dvor representing Serbia and Montenegro in the UEFA Cup.
However, Banatski were relegated from the Prva Liga along with FK Kom, FK Napredak and FK Radnicki Obrenovac. Montenegro's FK Buducnost Podgorica will take one place in the top flight next term but the identity of the three other promoted sides will only be known at the end of the Serbian second division season.
The coming campaign will run from 7 August 2004 to 28 May 2005, but for now, Slavoljub Muslin's Crvena Zvezda can celebrate their success after reclaiming the title from Partizan, who had been champions for two seasons running.
Coach Muslin had won two titles and a cup during an earlier spell with Crvena Zvezda from 1999-2001, and had promised supporters another double back in August – something he achieved with the help of 25-goal striker Nikola Žigic and the impressive Dragan Mladenovic.
"It seems that I bring luck to the club and I keep my word," said Muslin. "We were better in all departments this season. It was not an easy task, but we were highly motivated. However, we will ruin everything if we don't strengthen over the summer and start well in the Champions League."
Partizan may have played in the Champions League group stage this season, but they were a disappointing proposition at home. However, coach Vladimir Vermezovic put a brave face on things, saying: "We already have to think about next season, rebuilding and returning to the top."
Joy for Železnik
Železnik were the surprise package, and coach Mile Tomic's side, who combined Under-21 internationals Milan Bisevac, Mitar Novakovic and Marko Lomic with old heads Dragan Radjenovic, Zoran Djuraškovic and Jovan Markoski, will make their UEFA Cup debut next term.
Their achievements may have been more modest, but FK Sartid, FK Obilic and OFK Beograd can also look back on satisfying campaigns, with OFK in particular showing the class of their youth system. Nine of their players represent Serbia and Montenegro at U21 and Under-19 levels.
Average seasons left the likes of FK Zemun, FK Sutjeska, FK Vojvodina, FK Hajduk Beograd and FK Zeta in mid-table security. FK Borac, meanwhile, live to fight another day after coach Miodrag Tomic added 24 points to their pre-winter haul of eleven in an excellent spring campaign.
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