Monday, 15 December 2003 12:00 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne have gone clear atop the NSL ladder and sent a firm message that they belong amongst any reform of the game locally with a hard fought 2-1 victory over the Parramatta Power.
In front over 9000-10000 fans South fought back from a goal deficit to take the 3 points. Inspired by the ice-cool nerves of Captain Vaughn Coveny – who converted both goals from the penalty spot – South went ahead midway through the second half and managed to hang on for the vital win.
Parramatta came to Lakeside determined to get a result, from the onset the Nick Theodorakopoulos coached side looked sharp and extremely dangerous on the counter. As early as the 6th minute the Power threatened after Travis Dodd was released, Dodd’s subsequent strike was well hit but South custodian Eugene Galekovic was well positioned to save. South quickly replied in the 9th minute when a succession of offensive headers around the Parramatta defensive area saw the ball end up with Con Boutsianis who instead of electing to header over Bolton, attempted to volley home, Bolton got a slight deflection and the ball went well over.
Just as South was beginning to gain the ascendency Brazilian import Fernando Rech collected the ball just in front of the half way line, Rech advanced and managed to shield off a couple of South defenders before sending a low, well placed, drive past a diving Galekovic who managed to get a clear hand on the ball but couldn’t prevent it from crossing the line. Rech’s 15th minute goal silenced the South faithful but Stuart Munro’s men were far from done.
The 32nd minute saw returning gun-recruit Michael Panopoulos fire a 30 yard bullet towards Bolton’s top-right corner, Bolton did well to get across and push away for a corner. Immediately after his glorious attempt “Pana” produced a quality searching ball from the centre of park that picked out Curcija, the South striker controlled and with his second touch tried to glance the ball over his marker, fortunately for South, the Parramatta defender prevented the ball from advancing via the use of his arm, the linesman was perfectly positioned to raise his flag and subsequently did, referee Hugo pointed to the spot and a penalty was given. The South faithful held their breath as they sensed the importance of the spot-kick, up stepped Captain Coveny to calmly steer past a fully stretched Bolton to not only bring the scores level in the 34th minute but to also send the South faithful into frenzy.
With the scores level both sides went into the half time interval sensing that the next goal could ultimately prove to be the deciding effort. Seemingly inspired from Stuart Munro’s address at half time, South came out with a raised intensity in the second half, pressuring the Parramatta defensive area; half-chances fell to Boutsianis and Tunbridge who both sent angled volleys over Bolton’s goalmouth.
The crucial breakthrough finally arrived in the 62nd minute when the inspirational Panopoulos – who had comprehensively outplayed his direct opponent Simon Colosimo – pierced the Parramatta backline with a through ball that released Curcija, Curcija controlled decently and with Bolton rushing out, the South front-man attempted to go around the Power custodian who in the same play brought down the ex-Partizan Belgrade striker. Hugo once again pointed to the spot and once again, Coveny assumed responsibility. Coveny intelligently chose the opposite corner for his strike and sent Bolton the wrong way to send the home crowd into rapture. With Coveny’s goal South had transformed a deficit into a lead against the league’s most talented playing roster, suddenly a victory appeared to be a strong possibility.
South surged on looking for a third goal that would seal the result, the 77th minute saw Boutsianis released down the left hand side, with acres of space ahead, Boutsianis raced down the wing and delivered a glorious cross to the incoming Coveny who rose well but headed over. Had Coveny hit the target Bolton would’ve been beaten as the Power keeper had anticipated the cross to completely clear the South captain and as such his positioning was poor.
Parramatta then proceeded to raise the tempo and take more risks in the hope of finding an equaliser, with large chunks of possession a chance was inevitable and it arrived in the 78th minute when ex-Newcastle United winger/striker Travis Dodd fired in a dangerous cross from the right that beautifully picked out Fernando Rech who placed his header well but fortunately for the home side, Galekovic was on hand to anticipate the header and hence firmly grasped the ball.
South’s third nearly arrived in the 82nd minute when Young Socceroo Vince Lia – who had been brought on in the 2nd half – was released down the right by Sam Poutakidis, Lia’s cross was world class and picked out Con Boutsianis who made superb contact only for Bolton to palm away at the last moment when the ball appeared destined for the top corner. It was a save worthy of Bolton’s standing as one of Australia’s premier keepers but more importantly, a save that kept the Power in the contest.
Immediately after Boutsianis’s narrow miss, a Parramatta corner sent a flutter through the hearts of the South faithful. What appeared and easy take for Galekovic nearly turned into disaster when Galekovic spilt his initial grab onto his left upright, fortunately for South Galekovic recovered and quickly gloved.
For the remainder of the game South were looking to hang on, long clearances were all the rage and any decent possession on the ball for the home side was worth its weight in gold. Finally after 3 minutes of stoppage time, referee Hugo blew the final whistle, Bob Jane Stadium erupted, South went 3 points clear atop the NSL ladder but perhaps more importantly, a firm message to the reform process was sent, in drawing a great crowd, putting on a great footballing spectacle and generating a great atmosphere, South surely elevated their chances for inclusion in the reform process. A great day of football all round.
NSL Round 14 – South Melbourne v Parramatta Power
Sunday 14 December 2004 – Bob Jane Stadium, Albert Park.
South Melbourne (1) 2
Coveny (34 pen, 63 pen).
Parramatta Power (1) 1
Venue – Bob Jane Stadium.
Attendance – 10,005
Referee – Brett Hugo.
South Melbourne: (4-3-3) Galekovic, Poutakidis, Kovacevic, Laurie (Tolios
89), Storey, Coveny (c) (Lia 78), Stergiopoulos, Panopoulos, Curcija,
Boutsianis (Murdocca 92), Tunbridge. Subs not used: Theoklitis (GK).
Parramatta Power: (3-5-3) Bolton, Beachamp, Ceccoli (c) (Zorbas 81),
Sobczyk, Elrich, Gumprecht (O’Grady 90), Colosimo, Pantelis (Thompson 63),
Dodd, Rech, Milicic. Sub not used: Vukovic (GK).
Cautions: Rech (PP) 41, Curcija (SM) 46+, Gumprecht (PP) 46, Tunbridge
(SM) 54, Bolton (PP) 62, Colossimo (PP) 94,
Red Cards: (None)