Sunday, 28 December 2003 12:00 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne has been dealt a blow in an astonishing game at Bob Jane Stadium. South dominated possession, produced countless chances and twice levelled, only to see any hope of a positive result dashed when substitute striker Tanju Balabanel steered home a deflected shot past South keeper Eugene Galekovic in the dying minutes of the game to send the Wolves back to NSW with an invaluable 2-3 victory.
The home side were quickly stung into action after the Wolves had taken the lead in the 11th minute via an exquisitely placed set piece by Nahuel Arrarte, South had given away a free kick just outside the box and with Arrarte steering the ball over the wall, South custodian Galekovic had no chance.
South then lifted the tempo and the home faithful thought the leveller had arrived after a Con Boutsianis free kick from the right wing found its way past Wolves’ keeper Andrew Crews. However South’s joy was only temporary, the referee consulted with his linesman and it was ruled that Captain Vaughn Coveny had used his hands to divert the ball home, Coveny was subsequently booked and the goal was naturally disallowed.
The equaliser should’ve arrived after South were awarded a penalty minutes after the first disallowed goal, Coveny stepped up and converted firmly past Crews, but once again the ball was brought back with the referee demanding the spot kick be re-taken as some South players had entered the box before the kick had been struck. Coveny once again stepped up but this time Crews chose correctly and saved well to his right. South had been denied once again.
Clearly frustrated, Stuart Munro’s men proceeded to dominate possession for the rest of the half with South’s best opening arriving after a Simon Storey cross from the left was headed across goal by Coveny to an unmarked Curcija who from 6 yards out headed over. Showing attacking initiative, wingback Storey almost brought the house down with a right foot thunderbolt that flew past Crews’s left upright just before half time.
The second stanza saw South come out with increased intensity, chances were coming thick and fast with the lead protagonist being none other than Con Boustianis. Boutsianis spurned 3 decent chances with his final attempt, a near one-on-one with Crews that saw “Boutsi” smash an angled shot narrowly wide.
With the South faithful fearing the equaliser would never come, a 67th minute searching ball by Sam Poutakidis was well contested by Coveny deep in the Wollongong area, the ball eventually found its way to Boustianis who was on hand to head home the equaliser from point blank range.
The equaliser temporarily rejuvenated South who with the vocal support of the home crowd appeared destined to land the winner. With the Wolves absorbing bucket-loads of pressure, it was to everyone’s surprise that a 76th minute Arrarte corner somehow found its way past the South defence to land in the path of Nigerian Chimaobi Nwaogazi who instinctively fired home a devastating half volley from 6 yards out. It was Nwaogazi’s 6th goal in as many games, a goal-scoring run which has coincided with the Wolves recent good form.
To the home side’s credit an immediate reply followed with Captain Coveny finally getting on the scoresheet after nodding home an 80th minute Boutsianis corner. The ball appeared to have been cleared off the line, but after consoling with his linesman, the referee gave the all clear and the Lakesiders had drawn level once again.
With a draw looking the most likely result, substitute Tanju Balabanel – who has had European experience in Turkey – was played in behind the South defence by young Socceroo Dustin Wells, from an acute angle just inside the South area, Balabanel tried his luck with a low stinging shot that caught the heel or leg of a South defender and was unfortunately – for the home side – deflected past a helpless Galekovic for the eventual winner. The South players clasped the heads in devastation knowing that the game had escaped their grasp. Even 5 minutes of injury time could not see South muster a third equaliser, with Crews brilliantly saving a low header from Coveny and a goal-line clearance confirming the home side’s fate. Fair to say, it just wasn’t South’s evening.