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Cadu gives Red Star bittersweet win over Partizan

BELGRADE, May 5 (Reuters) - Former European Cup winners Red Star Belgrade beat champions and city rivals Partizan 1-0 after substitute Cadu Mendes lit up a tepid derby with a superb stoppage-time winner on Saturday.

The Brazilian forward unleashed a scorching shot from 20 metres into the bottom right corner to give Red Star their first away league win over Partizan since 2007, but one which came with only local pride and bragging rights at stake.

Partizan clinched a record fifth successive league title and their 24th overall last week with three games to spare and were expected to treat their fans to an entertaining performance against Red Star.

Their coach Avram Grant instead opted for a cagey 4-5-1 formation which suffered a third successive defeat by their bitter city foes under the Israeli, having lost last month's cup semi-final 4-0 on aggregate.

The champions still had the better chances but like in the previous two derbies, poor finishing and the woodwork denied them and left their fans stunned after the final whistle.

Midfielder Stefan Babovic twice fired high and wide from close range in the first half for Partizan and left back Aleksandar headed a teasing cross against the post on the hour.

With passes largely going astray as neither side showed much appetite for attacking football, it seemed all the fireworks would be confined to the terraces where both sets of fans lit dozens of flares in either half.

Cadu then struck with the clock ticking to send the Red Star end of the 25,000 crowd into raptures while the home fans jeered Partizan's players off the pitch.

"It gives us a lot of satisfaction to have won three in a row against Partizan and it will give us a plenty of confidence for the title race next season," Red Star coach Robert Prosinecki told a news conference.

"It is a tremendous confidence boost for this young team and we are now looking forward to the cup final against Borac Cacak on May 16 to end the season on a high," he said.

Grant said he was "proud of the way Partizan won the title" although he was disappointed with Saturday's defeat.

"Red Star won the match with a fantastic shot in the last minute but that doesn't change the fact that we've won the title emphatically and once again played very well," he said.

"Like in the previous two derbies, we had no luck at all while they made all their chances count, so I can't complain to the players about anything because they did everything to win this game."

Having failed to win the hearts of Partizan fans after three poor performances against Red Star, Grant will in all likelihood come under pressure if he fails to steer the club into the Champions League group stages next season.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)