Sunday, 30 November 2003 12:00 AM
Curcija became just the fifth South player to score four goals as South deepened the woes of the cellar-dwelling Kingz, who now return to New Zealand with their tails between their legs and on the look-out for a new coach.
Coach Ken Dugdale quit two days prior to this match in protest at the travel policy.
The New Zealanders had to assemble at the Auckland airport at 3.15am to travel over for the match.
The Kingz would not return home until Tuesday, meaning those part-time players who had to work could not travel for this match.
Already without suspended captain Chris Jackson, the Kingz also lost leading goalscorer Harry Ngata and striker Paul Harries.
With such a preparation, the last thing they needed was to concede an early goal, which they did just two minutes in when Curcija had the time and space to seize on a loose ball and rifle home a shot from outside the box.
After a refreshing burst of rain snapped the very humid conditions, South doubled their advantage in the 33rd minute when a corner from Con Boutsianis – in his 200th South appearance – was well met with a close-range header by central defender Steve Laurie.
South got the goal which put them top of the NSL in the 56th minute, as Sam Poutakidis whipped in a cross from the left where Curcija had a free header that Kingz keeper Mike Utting could only parry into the net.
Curcija brought up his hat-trick in 72nd minute, running onto a clever Kristian Sarkies chip pass and into the area where he had a one-on-one with Utting, cleverly shooting past the keeper from a tight angle.
Curcija’s fourth came in farcical style when Utting tried to be clever by juggling up a backpass, losing control and allowing the South striker the easiest of tap-ins in the 85th minute.
Scott Tunbridge added the coup de grace in the 90th minute with a long-range shot past the hapless Utting.
Kingz assistant coach Tommy Mason, who took charge today and was expected to do so again for at least next week, was unsure if and when a new permanent senior coach would be appointed.
“It’s a terrible result to get in light of what’s been happening,” Mason said.
“We’ve had a good run of late and today we were beaten by a better team and we have to pick ourselves up, show some grace and get on with it.”
South coach Stuart Munro was at pains to ensure his team took no notice of their opponent’s turmoil and was rewarded with the club’s biggest win in eight years.
He was also chuffed for Curcija, who answered those critics who had emerged as he scored just two goals for the season leading to this game.
“We’ve had absolutely no problem with Michael but people were talking about him not scoring, he’s too slow, he’s too this, he’s too that,” Munro said.
“I hope it really kick starts the goal-scoring part of his season.”