Sunday, 22 February 2004 12:00 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
The Northern Spirit completed a rare double over South Melbourne by defeating the free-falling Albert Park based club by 2 goals to 1.
South stumbled to their fourth consecutive loss on the back of an uninspired performance in front of its home faithful.
Spirit youngsters Adam Kwasnik and Jonathon Richter were the destroyers, nipping in for two very well taken goals in 52nd and 68th minutes.
South coach Stuart Munro put out a vastly unfamiliar line-up partly due to injury as well as lack of form. Regular striker Michael Curcija was omitted altogether with the patient Scott Tunbridge finally getting an opportunity to lead the line. Other notable changes included the benching of gun signing Michael Panopoulos as well as a return to the starting 11 for South Legend Paul Trimboli. Trimboli has spent a vast amount of the season on the bench; he returned to the starting 11 mid-week against Marconi and obviously did enough to retain his spot.
Defensively, injuries have hurt South, coach Munro’s hand has been somewhat forced and today’s back four consisted of defensive regulars Ante Kovacevic and Sammy Poutakidis, as well as the relatively inexperienced Nick Tolios and Carl Recchia.
Inexperience aside, South started the game brightly, as early as the 7th minute a Boustianis free kick eluded the defensive wall and found its way to an unmarked Vaughn Coveny, controlling un-cleanly Conveny did enough to get off a shot that bobbled just wide of Spirit custodian Paul Henderson’s right upright.
A 15th minute Vuko Tomasevic 30 yard rocket that whistled narrowly wide, reminded South that the Spirit had arrived to play positively and try their best to get something out of the game.
South quickly regained the balance of play when an intuitive Kristian Sarkies 17th minute lob from outside the Spirit box nearly caught keeper Henderson napping. Sarkies was desperately unlucky as his shot bounced just wide with Henderson struggling to make ground. Sarkies was at it again in the 19th minute when he assumed free kick responsibilities and sent a dipping 20 yard drive over the Spirit wall, luckily for the Lawrie McKinna coached side, Henderson read the shot well and positioned himself smartly to grasp the ball firmly on his chest.
South nearly conceded in the 20th minute when a defensive mix-up saw Kiwi youngster Brent Fisher nearly capitalise. Fisher found himself one-on-one with the re-instated Galekovic, however, the South custodian was quickly off his line and saved well.
Gaining in confidence, the Spirit had another decent attempt foiled by Galekovic. In the 32nd minute, ex-Parramatta Power midfield workhorse Wayne O’Sullivan unleashed a rocket-strike from just outside the South defensive area that Galekovic did well to save. The ball appeared to be destined for the top right-hand corner, only for a diving Galekovic to parry away for a corner.
After showing some attacking menace in the first half, South came out in the second appearing flat. Struggling to create any meaningful attacking play, the Spirit capitalised on South’s lack of attacking initiative by hitting the home side on the counter. Spirit defender Tomasevic sent an angled ball from deep in defence to young forward Kwasnik, who controlled well and calmly slotted past Galekovic in the 51st minute to send the Spirit ahead.
With South seemingly disinterested in mounting a fight-back, Kiwi youth international Fisher found himself in acres of space just inside the South area, his angled 67th minute shot was well placed but Galekovic was once again on hand to save around the post.
Then in the 68th minute the Spirit struck the killer blow, Jonathon Richter was played right through the centre of the South defence, he did well to keep his composure and as he narrowed in on goal, Richter kept his cool to slot past Galekovic. The Spirit bench leapt in joy with coach McKinna and Australian soccer legend Alex Tobin embracing in delight.
By now the South faithful had become restless; with their beloved side staring at a 4th consecutive loss, slight “boos” began to be heard. Then in the 71st minute Captain Coveny gave the home side a lifeline after a superb back-heel by Kristian Sarkies set up Coveny to unleash a pile-driving strike from just outside the Spirit defensive area past a helpless Henderson, who even at full stretch could do nothing about the shot
With South sensing an opening, the last ten minutes saw the home side pile on the pressure with Coveny missing a glorious chance to pull the teams level. The ball had been squared across low and when a first time strike was needed, Coveny hesitated, took a touch and by then, had the entire Spirit defence pressuring him. The goal-mouth scramble that ensued ended in a Spirit clearance.
South’s final attempt was a desperate long distance strike by Nick Tolios, Tolios’s strike was hit well, however it flew past the right-hand top corner, and with that miss, South’s chances for a result also faded.