Who? – Red Star Belgrade
What? – Champions League Group Stages – Group C Matchday 4
Where? – Belgrade, Serbia
When? – 6th November 2018
How? – For Red Star Belgrade, qualification to the group stages of the Champions League was a big task to reach in itself as the Serbian side were tasked in four rounds of qualifying with two legs in each round. Spartaks Jūrmala of Latvia were put aside 2-0 in the second leg after a goalless first leg, before Sūduva Marijampolė of Lithuania were comfortable put aside 5-0 on aggregate entering the month of August.
Spartak Trnava were drawn with Red Star and overcoming the Slovak side proved far more difficult and extra time had to settle the tie in the second leg before away goal ruling meant another close affair with Red Bull Salzburg of Austria in the final qualifying round meant El Fardou Ben Nabouhane’s two goals were enough to seal a Champions League campaign.
The famous Serbian club, who famously won the UEFA Champions League in 1991 on penalties against Marseille, were given a draw of death however as their Group C opponents contained European giants in Liverpool, Napoli and Paris Saint Germain ahead of the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League.
After a courageous and battling goalless draw with Napoli in the first match of the group stage, reality check of the bigger teams dominating the Serbian champions and Red Star not being able to handle to attacking prowess of PSG and Liverpool as both sides, in front of their own fans, put ten past Milan Borjan net with just the one goal scored in Paris by former Chelsea man Marko Marin as consolation to the six conceded.
Matchday 4 arrived and with just a point to their name, Red Star were about to head out of the Champions League and potentially be on the end of another big defeat as they welcomed Liverpool to the intimidating Serbian city and stadium, but the undefeated and unstoppable looking Liverpool side found the task a little more complex and uphill when the script went out the window and tall striker Milan Pavkov gave Crveno-beli an unexpected lead on 22 minutes.
It would be expected that Zvezda, being in a position to defend a lead would sit back and soak up some pressure to get to half time since the English side had already created a golden opportunity for Sturridge. However Pavkov had other ideas and the encouragement of finding the net once was strong enough to decide to strike from distance and fire beyond Alisson in the Liverpool net from 25 yards out to send the Rajko Mitic stadium into pyro-craze.
Sadio Mane poked an effort from a few yards which was kept out and Mohammad Salah had an close range curling effort with the outside of the post in the second half after an initial punch from goalkeeper Borjan fell to his path, but the Serbian side held out for a memorable victory and it went on to open up the group somewhat, before Liverpool and PSG eventually made it out and the former going all the way to Madrid where they face Tottenham Hotspur.