Then Milan Lukač’s possible absence also came up. The goalkeeper had been suffering from stomach problems, he confirmed he would play the match only during the pre-match warm-up.
It was also raining heavily. The soil of the playing ground looked like something from a horror movie, as if a big group of wild boors would have been rooting there. Someone somewhere had this witty comment that the field would be perfect for growing potatoes, but was absolutely inappropriate for playing football.
So, Partizan ran out from the locker-room, to see 6000 raging Novi Pazar fans on the tribunes. Locals immediately covered them with all the little signs of their love. Paper bands were flying towards the team, covering a part of the field. Paper aeroplanes were thrown to Partizan's bench (as well as other things, more about them later), so, all in all, it is definitely a very hospitable place.
In the 2nd minute Saša Ilić made a big pass from the right side, pity it was missed.
Then, two minutes later it wasn’t.
Živković kicked the match’s first corner. The goalkeeper put himself into the shorter corner, while Lazović was waiting in the long one. The ball came and he headed it precisely into the middle of the net. 0:1
Novi Pazar players picked themselves together, it would have been tough to be beaten in front of their own audience (with nobody there from Belgrade). In the 6th minute Oliveira tricked himself through Partizan’s defense line, but thankfully Lukač was at his place. Three minutes later they tried again, but Marković threw himself into the way. A bit later the ball got on corner. It caused an upheaval in Partizan’s penalty area, finally Oliveira made a too wide shot.
Then someone threw a firecracker on Marko Nikolić’s head.
While referee Glođović felt offended that Partizan’s trainer suggested him to pause the game. The game was still on pause for 3 minutes, mostly because Marko Nikolić and the referee had an argument with strong gesticulations. In the meantime fans threw heaps of paperbands on the field. Finally the match could continue with a Partizan free kick. Živković was trying, the ball got on corner.
The 16th minute brought a screaming-fainting-hand trembling-heart attack situation. It was Oliveira again, getting the ball from the right, he sent the shot wide above the crossbar from the 5-metre line.
It says all about the quality of the playing field that Novi Pazar goalkeeper Zečević wanted to make a goal kick. He ran up, kicked, slid and fell into the mud.
In the 19th minute Novi Pazar tried to scare Lukač with a distant shot, our goalkeeper in return immediately sent the ball for a counter-attack. Živković missed it.
In the 24th minute it was Živković again. He gave a huge pass to Škuletić from the right. Novi Pazar’s defender fell into the mud, Partizan’s striker shot too high from the goalmouth.
The atmosphere was heated not just on the tribunes but also on the field, no wonder it got harder and harder for referee Glođović to keep it under control. The playing field’s quality made it worse, players kept on sliding, falling, losing the ball. (In exchange we could see amazing gymnastics excersises - splits or even split jumps - that made all jaws drop on the floor.)
In the 30th minute Partizan got a free kick. It was near the sideline, at the level of the 5-meter line. Živković kicked it in the middle, defenders headed it back to Petrović. Petrović shot, the defense line pushed it to corner. Then after another corner again Petrović got the ball and shot again. The ball was dropping in the mud, the goalkeeper desperately threw himself on it.
After 7 minutes of mud-wrestling Jevtović made a sudden, distant shot to Partizan’s goal. Lukač saved. At this point everyone was so dirty it was hard to make any difference between the two teams; Novi Pazar’s light blue jersey was grey from dirt, Partizan was playing by default in the grey away shirt. (Many kisses from here to the person who picked this grey jersey for the Novi Pazar game.) Or, when in the 43rd minute Saša Ilić had a huge rush for the ball, but slid. Or in the last minute of the first half, when Oliveira ran up to Partizan’s goal area, but whoosh, he slid. Never mind, we could make an immediate counter-attack, Lazović is already in front of Novi Pazar’s goalmouth... and bang, slid and fell.
In the beginning of the second half Novi Pazar fans made a fantastic demonstration with colourful smoke bombs and a huge, white-blue banner that covered the entire tribune. Erm... guys, is it maybe possible to do this every time? You were amazing, fantastic. Let's forget that firecracker and paper band throwing adventure, shall we?...
In the 49th minute Lazović had a great run and passed the ball to Živković in front of Novi Pazar’s goal line. The midfielder sent a bomber shot, just the goalkeeper was in the way.
Novi Pazar started to play it hard and led a row of attacks to Partizan’s goal line, but all of them dropped off by Partizan defense. Then in the 61st minute Škuletić ran up to the home team’s goal area, but he was tackled. Not much later Lazović rushed up and passed the ball to Živković. He gave it to Škuletić, but he slid. A minute later he tried again with a distant shot. Someone touched the ball, corner.
In the 67th minute Oliveira sent a distant shot to Partizan’s goal, but it was too wide. A minute later Škuletić was again in the spotlight. The striker came up on the left side and passed it to the middle, but nobody was there to kick it to the net. It was still enough for a counter-attack by Novi Pazar, Oliveira’s shot flew out near the goalpost.
In the 72nd minute Volkov would have headed a giant goal. Actually he did, but the referee disagreed, saying it was offside. ArenaSport replayed it about a million times in slow motion, but still nobody could see it clearly what actually happened. Meanwhile Marko Nikolić got into an argument with the referee again. Glođović’s blood pressure reached the skies and sent Partizan’s trainer off with a red card. (In the meantime Partizan’s bench was covered with garbage thrown there by fans.)
In the 78th minute Novi Pazar equalized. After a long wrestling Kecap got the ball and passed it to the middle. Oliveira grabbed it among defenders sliding all over in the mud and shot it into the net. 1:1 (ArenaSport’s commentator thought it was actually Branko Ilić’s own goal, but it is only his opinion.)
In the 83rd minute Novi Pazar tried again, Mijić barely missed from a sudden, distant shot. In the 90th minute Tintor kicked Grbić off roughly. He already had a yellow card, the referee sent him off.
There was a 5-minute-long extra time, but that was only about mud-wrestling.
Venue: City Stadium, Novi Pazar
Number of spectators: 6000
Referee: Vlado Glođović (assistants: Dejan Petrović, Dejan Potočan - 4th assistant: Vladimir Jovanović - goal line assistants: Dejan Anđelković, Petar Piper)
Novi Pazar: Zečević - Stevanović (Arifović, 87.), Tintor, Vuković, M. Živković - Jevtović, Rusmir (Hadžibulić, 63.), Mijić, Oliveira (Radivojević, 90+4.), Pavlović - Kecap
Head coach: Milorad Kosanović
FK Partizan: Lukač - B. Ilić, Ćirković, Stanković, Petrović - A. Živković (Grbić, 80.), Marković, Drinčić, S. Ilić (Volkov, 66.) - Lazović, Škuletić
Head coach: Marko Nikolić
Goal scorers: Lazović (4.), Oliveira (77.)
Yellow card: Tintor (48.), Marković (50.), B. Ilić (90+2.), Zečević (90+5.)
Red card: Tintor (89.) - second yellow card
Current championship standings:
1. Partizan 35 points
2. Crvena Zvezda 31 points
3. Vojvodina 26 points
4. Čukarički 25 points
5. Novi Pazar 21 points
6. OFK Beograd 21 points
7. Jagodina 20 points
8. Mladost 18 points
9. Spartak Zlatibor Voda 18 points
10. Rad 16 points
11. Donji Srem 15 points
12. Borac 13 points
13. Napredak 13 points
14. FK Voždovac 12 points
15. Radnički Niš 12 points
16. Radnički 1923 7 points
(photos: Facebook/Fudbalski klub Partizan)