Champagne may herald the start of Wimbledon a week today, with dollops of strawberries and cream. At Dens Park, they had to make do with the last of the summer whine.
It was not sour grapes that Ivano Bonetti used to christen the new season, 21 days after the old one was put to bed, as Dundee failed on Saturday to break down the irritating FK Sartid in the Intertoto Cup. The player-manager's moan was fermented more by wrath after this first-round, first leg stalemate finished 0-0.
The Scottish Premier League side's attempt to chisel out a lead before Saturday's return leg was thwarted by a cynical display from the Yugoslavian side, whose diving and feigning injury added eight minutes to a tedious game.
"Cheating Continentals," we Brits would call them. Bonetti would too. "After a year playing Scottish football," said the Italian, "it really annoys me now to see players going down and wasting time. The referee could have added on 12 minutes, but he did well under the circumstances. Anyway, we did not lose a goal and that is important in Europe and I think we can still go through."
The Sartid coach Jovica Skoro said, "It's all down to attitude, not gamesmanship. In Yugoslavia it's important to the players psychologically to have the physio come on in case they are injured and it might get worse. It might have been annoying for the spectators, but it wasn't meant to be off-putting."
Bonetti's optimistic assessment is based on the fact that his side had twice as many away wins last season in the SPL including at Celtic and Rangers than they did at Dens Park, which was filled by over 6,500 for the club's return to the European stage after a 27-year exile. However, Sartid promised Bonetti's cosmopolitan crew which included Argentinians, Italians and a Spaniard a warm time when they meet again in Smederevo, 30 miles outside of Belgrade.
"Dundee players can expect hell in Smederevo," the midfielder Boris Vaskovic said, predicting a rabid, sell-out audience. It cannot be any worse than Parkhead or Ibrox, reasoned Bonetti. His players looked like a side with only six days' training under their belts, while Sartid are at the peak of the Yugoslav campaign.
The man who could make a difference for Dundee, now that Claudio Caniggia has departed to Rangers, is Fabian Caballero. The gifted Argentinian almost prised out a winner in stoppage time, which would have been justice given Sartid's play-acting. Time may yet catch up with the Yugoslavs.
Dundee (4-5-1): Langfield; Smith, Wilkie, Coyne, Marrocco; Artero, Robertson (Milne, 46), Romano, Rae, Garrido (Bonetti, 71); Sara (Caballero, 62). Substitutes not used: Soutar, Del Rio, Fatello.
FK Sartid (3-5-2): Lukic; Aleksic, Mrdak, Socanac; Bogdanovic (Panic, 86), Glogovac, Vaskovic, Ramovic, Radoeavijevic; Zecevic (Paunovic, 88), Mircsavijevic (Atunovic 77). Substitutes not used: Rankovic, Savic, Balaban.
Referee: T Skjerven (Norway).
Bookings: Dundee: Coyne. Sartid: Ramovic.
Man of the match: Smith.
Attendance: 6,511.Reuse content