By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) - Beating bitter city foes Red Star in front of a packed home crowd made reaching the Serbian Cup final that much sweeter as fans flocked back to stadiums on Wednesday amid the coronavirus pandemic, Partizan head coach Savo Milosevic said.
Holders Partizan beat Red Star 1-0 in a tense derby as fans were allowed to attend games in unrestricted numbers for the first time since the COVID-19 virus halted soccer in the Balkan nation in mid-March.
"I thank the fans for their fantastic support and it was great to grind out this win in front of a full house," a delighted Milosevic told a news conference after Bibras Natcho's 58th-minute winner settled the contest.
"Having that kind of support was absolutely imperative today. It was great to see a near-capacity crowd after such a long barren spell."
The Serbian league resumed on May 29 behind closed doors, with Red Star clinching the league title with three games to spare on the 29th anniversary of their 1991 European Cup triumph.
A limited number of fans saw their 4-1 home win over Radnik Surdulica on Saturday but they looked toothless against a fired-up Partizan and Milosevic praised their players who thrived in an electrifying atmosphere.
"I think we did pretty well in a very tough match and reaffirmed that when the going gets tough, the tough get going," said the former Yugoslavia striker, who won the English League Cup with Aston Villa in 1996.
"It was tense, tempers flared here and there but no one crossed any lines and credit to Red Star too for their sportsmanlike behaviour.
Red Star coach Dejan Stankovic, who won the 2010 Champions League with Inter Milan, was disappointed.
"We left it all out there but it was a poor performance and I take responsibility," he said.
"I don’t want to rip into the lads because they are already gutted. We lacked patience and a more adventurous approach."
(Reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic, editing by Ed Osmond)