Wednesday, 10 December 2003 12:00 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South have returned to the NSL peak with a strong 4-2 victory against a spirited Sydney Olympic. A dazzling opening 35 minutes that saw the Lakesiders establish a 3 goals to nil lead was ultimately enough to secure the points for the home side.
The South show started as early as the 7th minute after home captain Vaughn Coveny created space for himself down the right wing, Coveny cut back to his left side and sent in a great looping cross that saw Scott Tunbridge rise above the defence to head home past an outstretched Hughes.
South’s second came in the 25th minute after clever close interplay between Boutsianis and Poutakidis on the edge of the Olympic area saw the latter released tête-à-tête with Olympic custodian Hughes, Poutakidis calmly chose his spot and with the aid of a deflection sent South to a well deserved 2-0 lead.
The 32nd minute saw South go further ahead, midfield stalwart Marcus Stergiopoulos found space close to the Olympic area, with a defender in front of him, Stergiopoulos did brilliantly to shimmy past the Olympic marker and with the goal at his mercy, the player affectionately known as “Sterge” chose to unselfishly lay off to South striker Michael Curcija who with an empty goalmouth missed his initial attempt but luckily had the presence and composure to quickly adjust to put South 3 ahead.
Olympic pulled a goal back in the 36th minute after a curling corner from Jim Nikas was well met by NSL veteran Elias Augerinos who rose powerfully to head passed a helpless Galekovic. It was a goal the served to inspire the visitors, soon after; the quiet Pablo Cardozo saw his curling 41st minute free-kick curl narrowly wide. Olympic sensed an opening.
The second stanza saw Olympic pressing hard for another goal in the hope that a 2nd effort would give them the necessary momentum to get a result. Ex-South midfielder George Goutzioulis threatened with a 56th minute angled volley that South custodian Galekovic did well to parry over.
Immediately after Goutzioulis’s attempt South attacked on the counter with the enigmatic Con Boutsianis finding acres of space down the left wing, reminiscent of a training set-piece, Boutsianis thundered down the line and delivered a brilliant cross that Curcija nearly met after almost perfectly timing his acceleration past his marker, the ball eventually found a closing Tunbridge who sent a follow up header over Hughes’s goalmouth.
Olympic who had had the lion’s share of possession in the first 15 minutes of the second half were given hope when a 62nd minute scramble in the South area saw the ball fall to Olympic substitute Jim Bakis who did superbly well to react first and send his shot on the turn passed Galekovic, Galekovic managed to get a hand to the attempt but ultimately Bakis’s quick reaction defeated the gallant South custodian.
With Olympic sensing the possibility of a result, their travelling supporters broke out in voice, the equaliser nearly arrived in the 71st minute when ex-Adelaide City Force defender Iain Fyfe broke down the left and made his way into the South area, Fyfe’s subsequent cross was low and well directed but fortunately for South Olympic’s forwards couldn’t make direct contact with the ball.
In need of a response to kill off the game, South turned to Con Boutsianis. Boutsianis had been a clear target all game for the travelling Olympic supporters yet managed to respond in characteristically magnificent fashion. South won a 78th minute free kick on the edge of the Olympic area, with the South faithful sensing a wonder-strike Boutsianis delivered by sending a dart-like curling effort passed a stranded Hughes who had no chance.
With Olympic effectively killed off, South missed golden opportunities with both Coveny and substitute Ibraimi Ibraimi failing to convert one-on-one opportunities in the last ten minutes.
Special mention must go to the Clarendon Corner who created a brilliant atmosphere throughout the entire encounter; their second half “light” show was reminiscent of atmospheres usually only seen in the stadia of Europe let alone in the National Soccer League. A great effort to cap off a night of great football.