Partizan win farcical Serbian Cup Final

BELGRADE - Serbia's football reputation took another hit on Wednesday when their domestic Cup final ended in farce after Vojvodina Novi Sad's players walked off the pitch in protest over controversial refereeing decisions, handing Partizan Belgrade their 12th Serbian Cup title.

Partizan were leading 2-1 when Vojvodina had an 80th minute goal ruled out. The disallowed effort came just after referee Slobodan Veselinovic had awarded Partizan a harsh-looking penalty which Zvonimir Vukic converted.

Vojvodina's incensed coach Zoran Milinkovic then led the players into the tunnel and also failed to turn up for his press conference.

His team also boycotted the presentation ceremony, leaving Partizan to celebrate in front of 10,000 of their fans who had packed the south tier of Red Star Belgrade's 55,000-seater stadium.

"We could feel it in the air right from the off that an incident of some sort was waiting to happen," Partizan coach Aleksander Stanojevic told a news conference after his team tried to persuade Vojvodina's players to finish the game.

"We were astonished Vojvodina were allowed to have the kickoff delayed by 30 minutes just because their fans were late and what they did at the end was a graceless act unworthy of a cup finalist.

"Still, we hope there air will be cleared before we play each other again next season because more tension of this kind is the last thing Serbian football needs."

Partizan goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic added: "They should never have been allowed to deliberate for 10 minutes whether they want to carry on playing or not, we were quite simply stunned by their behaviour.

SIMMERING PROBLEMS

The farcical end to the Cup final is the latest in a list of incidents that have affected Serbian football.

The domestic game has been riddled with violence that has witnessed rival fans being killed in clashes while players have also been singled out for abuse and death threats.

The 27-year old Stojkovic, a former Red Star Belgrade player who became the first Serb to join bitter city foes Partizan in more than 20 years after he moved from Sporting Lisbon, was targeted by fanatical Red Star 'ultras' when Serbia played Italy away in a Euro 2012 qualifier last October.

That game too was abandoned, after only six minutes, when Serbia fans donning Red Star shirts threw flares at Italian fans, players and police in Genoa, having previously attacked their own team bus and Stojkovic in particular.

Serbia were ordered to play at least one home game behind closed doors and to refrain from allocating tickets for their remaining away qualifiers following the Genoa riot.

Stanojevic, who steered Partizan into the Champions League group stage this season, said the cup final had stained what he saw as an almost impeccable season for Partizan.

"It leaves a bitter taste and of course we have mixed emotions about the way we won this trophy because we deserve better as a team which has carried Serbia's flag in Europe for some time now," he said.

"We were graceful in defeat after losing both league fixtures to Vojvodina but we can't say the same for them and we played no part in this scandalous finale."