Thursday, 5 February 2004 12:00 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
This Friday night South venture to Adelaide’s Hindmarsh stadium to take on the high-flying Adelaide United in what looms as a near “6-pointer” for both sides. Parramatta’s draw against Marconi has paved the way for the Albert Park based club to regain the all important 2nd position if a win in Adelaide can be achieved. Conversely an Adelaide win would see the John Kosmina coached United go a long way in securing a top 6 birth.
One of the few success stories of the current season, Adelaide have been pulling in bumper crowds throughout their inaugural campaign and will naturally be expecting a close to capacity crowd for the visit of glamour club South Melbourne. With a strong South Melbourne supporter presence expected at the game, Friday’s game epitomises the type of encounter that the NSL needs more of, that is, two sides with much to play for, a bumper crowd, and passionate support from both sets of supporters.
A quick glance at the United goal difference highlights both an obvious strength and weakness of the Kosmina coached side. Having conceded only 18 goals, United’s defence lead by regulars Michael Valkanis, Richie Alagich, Aaron Goulding and Kristian Rees has done a superb job in defending custodian David Scarsella’s goal. However, United’s over-reliance on veteran midfield/striker Carl Veart to get goals could prove to be a stumbling block against South. Veart has managed to tuck away 8 goals so far this term; the only other player over 1 goal is fellow forward Mislav Saric who has 2 goals to his name.
United’s consistent form this season can no doubt be largely attributed to the experience of seasoned professionals such as Aurelio Vidmar, Goran Lozanovksi, Michael Valkanis, Ross Aloisi and of course Veart. This crop of players not only has vast NSL experience, but more importantly, all players have had quality stints in Europe which have no doubt proved invaluable to Adelaide’s plight this season.
Conversely, Friday’s encounter sees South Melbourne celebrate two significant milestones amongst their playing ranks. Captain Vaughn Coveny brings up NSL game number 300, whilst new recruit Scott Tunbridge somewhat ironically plays his 100th career game against many of his former team-mates.
South are coming off an easy 4-0 victory against the Melbourne Knights and will have to be weary of complacency as a much tougher encounter is naturally expected. For the Stuart Munro coached side, Michael Panopoulos has served his suspension and should be in line for a return, however, the form of midfield starlets Kristian Sarkies and Massimo Murdocca will leave Coach Munro with a tough selection decision.
Injury wise the Albert Park based club has been somewhat blessed this season with only Levent Osman having struggled with injury in recent times. Such fortune is a predicament that all coaches throughout the league could only wish for as when one takes into account the depth of South’s squad, Coach Munro finds himself in the difficult situation of having to find the best line-up from a squad where every player has contributed greatly to South’s plight this season.