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Wobbling giants under pressure

Published: Monday 12 September 2005, 12.58CET
Monthly review: Serbia-Montenegro's traditional hierarchy was given a shock as both FK Crvena Zvezda and FK Partizan lost on the same day.
by Aleksandar Boskovic
from Belgrade features

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Published: Monday 12 September 2005, 12.58CET

Wobbling giants under pressure

Monthly review: Serbia-Montenegro's traditional hierarchy was given a shock as both FK Crvena Zvezda and FK Partizan lost on the same day.

Serbia-Montenegro's traditional football hierarchy was given a jolt on 28 August as FK Crvena Zvezda and FK Partizan lost league matches on the same day for the first time in seven years. The country's two dominant clubs have not suffered such ignominy since the final day of the 1997/98 season.

Double defeat
Crvena Zvezda suffered a 2-1 defeat away to FK Borac, who also overcame the Belgrade giants last season. Then, two-and-a-half hours later, Partizan lost 1-0 at home to OFK Beograd. As a result, the top of the table has a very unfamiliar look with OFK leading the way with five wins out of five and, although Partizan are second, FK Zemun and FK Zeta are also in contention.

Vulnerable giants
Despite dwarfing the rest of the league in terms of wealth and popularity, the Belgrade giants' vulnerability has provided a welcome competitive edge to the season. Crvena Zvezda, in particular, are in serious trouble after losing several top players.

Problems for Zenga
Marko Pantelic, the league's leading scorer last term, has moved to Hertha BSC Berlin in Germany, while Russian club FC Alania Vladikavkaz snapped up defender Slavoljub Djordjevic. Coach Walter Zenga already finds himself under pressure after just six weeks in the job, with Crvena Zvezda eight points off the summit of the table, albeit with a game in hand.

Champions League exit
Partizan, meanwhile, suffered a dispiriting UEFA Champions League exit to FC Artmedia Bratislava in the third qualifying round. A lack of firepower proved their undoing, and they have found the net just seven times in their first nine competitive outings this season.

Stadium improvements
Elsewhere in Belgrade, OFK and Zemun have shown the strength in depth of the Serbo-Montenegrin capital, growing in confidence with each victory with both taking ten points from their first five league games. Meanwhile, a number of smaller clubs have renovated their stadiums in order to obtain a UEFA licence; Zemun, Zeta, FK Jedinstvo Bujelo Polje, FK Buducnost Banatski Dvor and FK Vojvodina have all made ground improvements.

World Cup in sight
The national team's encouraging progress has further buoyed the atmosphere in Serbia and Montenegro. A draw away to Spain on 7 September leaves them top of their FIFA World Cup qualifying group with two matches to play.

Last updated: 12/09/05 15.15CET

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