Dundee's fruitless summer sojourn

Dundee 0 FK Sartid Smederevo 0
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The Independent Football

So that was the summer holidays, then? Just 21 days after the Scottish Cup final, a new campaign dawned thanks to the joys of the Intertoto Cup.

Sadly, Dundee failed to trouble the scorers. Another limp display in Yugoslavia next weekend by Ivano Bonetti's side will see a swift first-round exit for the Dens Park club, who are ending a 27-year exile from European competition.

Though the Intertoto Cup was derided at its inception six years ago, the reward of entry into the Uefa Cup for those who emerge through the qualifying maze has now stripped thoughts of snobbery. Even Juventus forsook their summer holidays for this tournament two years ago.

Bonetti, the player-manager, has known similar heights. He played for Sampdoria in the 1992 European Cup final at Wembley against Barcelona, and a hunger to ensure that his managerial career progresses along similar lines saw him order his players to train during their meagre 19-day holiday. Dundee had never played a fixture in June before.

Summer sport on Tayside usually revolves around its golf courses, yet Dens was more attractive than Carnoustie for the substantial crowd, even if it was some way short of the 40,000 who piled in to see Dundee beat Milan on this ground in the 1963 European Cup semi-final, only to be beaten on aggregate.

FK Sartid are hardly a household name in Yugoslavia, let alone an attraction elsewhere, yet their tidy football encouraged the small band of fans who symbolised their country's isolation by having a stand to themselves, surrounded by an ocean of empty blue seats.

Dundee had little success in piercing the Yugoslavs' defensive barrier, with Javier Artero squandering a chance when he lobbed wide after 14 minutes. Then Alberto Garrido put a volley narrowly past a post and Chris Coyne curled a free-kick just over the bar before the break.

Coyne came close again with a header just after the hour but it took the appearance of the local hero (well, Argentinian actually) Fabian Caballero to fire the crowd's enthusiasm.

Claudio Caniggia may have departed for Rangers but his compatriot had captured the hearts of Dundonians before the erstwhile golden boy even arrived, and a couple of jinking runs and a raking shot soon injected more menace into Bonetti's team.

However, when Caballero's 25-yard drive drifted inches wide of the post in injury time, Dundee knew they would have to negotiate a perilous trip to Serbia for next Saturday's second leg if they to advance further.