Saturday, 20 December 2003 12:00 AM
Newcastle 0 South Melbourne 1
SOUTH MELBOURNE extended their lead to six-points at the top of the NSL with a victory against Newcastle United at EnergyAustralia Stadium.
The winner came after just seven minutes through Michael Curcija after Scott Tunbridge had delivered a wonderful ball from the left-hand side.
Curcija was left with a simple tap-in from eight metres and a striker of his quality rarely wastes such opportunities.
Newcastle created the better opportunities after the early setback and will feel it deserved at least a share of the spoils from a match played in sweltering conditions.
South Melbourne goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic had to be at full stretch to protect the lead in the 33rd minute when Ryan Griffiths headed a great pass from Mitchell Johnson toward goal.
Griffiths had been on the pitch for barely a minute, replacing captain Robbie Middleby who had limped off with a calf injury.
Galekovic was the hero either side of half-time, denying Fijian international Esala Masi on both occasions. First he turned away a 25 metre thunderbolt and then he was good enough to parry a full blooded drive which was bound for the net.
Greg Owens spurned a golden chance on the hour mark after Ryan Griffiths has wriggled his way into the penalty box. Griffiths balled the ball back for the striker but he wasted an early Christmas present by flashing it across the face of goal.
Newcastle coach Ian Crook lamented his side’s poor touch in front of goal and another three points lost at home. “There’s another game where, with no disrespect to them, we’ve had 75 per cent of play,” he said.
“Our passing and our movement was good, but goals win games.”
Crook was distressed about his rising injury toll, with his team faced with the task of a match against Northern Spirit on Sunday.
“Robbie (Middleby) has torn a calf, he’s out for the foreseeable future … Brownie (Damien Brown) is no good, and Jobe (Wheelhouse) is only about 75 per cent.”
South Melbourne coach Stuart Munro thought Crook was generous in saying his side had had 25 per cent of the game.
“I don’t know where he got the 25 per cent to be honest, but when you get a group of players who believe in each other you become resilient,” he said.
“You have to ride your luck sometimes but we roll our sleeves up and win games.”
Munro commented that the heat had sapped his side’s energy and the points were all the more valuable for the conditions under which the match was played.
“We’re not used to this hot weather. That’s why I made a few changes in the middle of midfield,” he said.
“Any time you can come here in these conditions and get the points is good.”
SOUTH MELBOURNE 1 (M Curcija 7m) bt NEWCASTLE UNITED 0 at Energy Australia Stadium. Referee: P Green. Crowd: approx. 2500.