December 7, 2017 / 10:17 PM / 8 days ago

Soccer-Red Star end 26-year wait to advance in Europe

LONDON, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Former European Cup winners Red Star Belgrade survived the winter break in European competition for the first time in 26 years after a 1-0 home win over Cologne on Thursday sent them into the Europa League knockout stages.

Red Star, who won Europe’s elite club competition in 1991 and reached the latter stages the following season, finished second in Group H behind Arsenal who eased to a 6-0 rout of Belarus champions BATE Borisov.

More than a quarter of a century of European failure which went hand-in-hand with Red Star’s financial decay ended in front of a capacity 52,000 crowd in the Rajko Mitic stadium after forward Slavoljub Srnic struck a 22nd-minute winner.

Srnic beat Cologne keeper Timo Horn with a crisp shot from 10 metres after midfielder Nenad Krsticic released Milan Rodic with a defence-splitting pass and the left back squared it into the heart of the penalty box.

Roared on by their frenetic faithful on a cold evening, Red Star held on in the second half as the visitors piled on the pressure and the joyous home fans set off a plethora of fireworks after the final whistle.

The match was played under tight security amid fears of violence after 5,000 Cologne fans arrived in the Serbian capital but was devoid of crowd trouble, notwithstanding a flurry of flares lit by both sets of supporters. (Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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