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Soccer-Dinamo surge clear in Croatia, Serbia's Red Star close gap

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By Zoran Milosavljevic

BELGRADE, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb took a big step towards an eighth successive league title with a 2-1 win at rivals Hajduk Split on Wednesday while Red Star Belgrade closed in on front-runners Partizan in Serbia.

There was joy for talents in both former Yugoslav countries as Dinamo's teenage defender Tin Jedvaj shone throughout the absorbing contest and Red Star's 19-year old midfielder Vukan Savicevic scored his first goal for the 1991 European Cup winners.

Scrapped on Sunday after torrential rain made the pitch at Hajduk's Poljud stadium unplayable, the Croatian derby lived up to its billing after striker Ivan Krstanovic took Jedvaj's delightful through ball into his stride to give Dinamo an early lead.

Midfielder Goran Jozinovic equalised with a deflected low drive from 25 metres in the 42nd minute but the home fans were silenced straight after the restart, when left back Luis Ibanez restored Dinamo's lead with a superb dipping shot from a tight angle.

Dinamo had midfielder Marcelo Brozovic sent off midway through the second half for a second bookable offence but the leaders held firm to extend their advantage to 11 points and leave second-placed Hajduk with only a slim chance of breaking their domination.

With Partizan's fixture at neighbours BSK Borca postponed until March 6 after heavy rainfall flooded the ground on Tuesday, Red Star took advantage to cut the deficit to three points with a 2-1 home win over Javor Ivanjica as Serbia's season resumed after a three-month mid-season break.

Marko Momcilovic rounded off a slick move to fire Javor ahead shortly after the break but the visitors then succumbed to incessant pressure from Red Star and Savicevic levelled on the hour with a cool finish into the far corner from 10 metres.

Substitute Luka Milunovic headed the winner two minutes later after a perfect cross by former Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Nenad Milijas, who also forced three excellent saves from Javor goalkeeper Djordje Lazovic with stinging long-range efforts.

"We were poor in the first half as the young players who have to grow up quickly in difficult circumstances were clearly under pressure," said Red Star coach Aleksandar Jankovic, referring to the debt-ridden club's aim to stop Partizan from winning a record sixth successive league title.

"But they responded well after falling behind and we can now look forward to the trip to cross-town neighbours Rad," he told Serbia's Arenasport television.

Partizan resume their campaign with a home game against first division newcomers Donji Srem on Saturday. (Editing by Mark Meadows)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130227/soccer-dinamo-surge-clear-croatia-serbias-red-star-close-gap