Friday, 27 February 2004 12:00 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
This Sunday, South Melbourne travel to OKI Jubilee Stadium NSW to face perennial interstate rivals Sydney Olympic in the final round of the NSL regular season. With Olympic well out of finals contention and South on their worst losing streak in 10 years, – – the Lakesiders have lost 4 consecutive games – there will be much to play for in this usually passionate affair.
South will be looking to regain some momentum in the lead-up to the finals whilst the Peter Papanikitas coached Olympic will be keen to end their season on a positive note. With both clubs unsure of their futures at the elite level of Soccer next season, Sunday’s clash may potentially be the last encounter at National level between the two traditional clubs.
Currently lying in 7th position, the 2nd half of the season has been a vast improvement over the first half for the Sydneysiders. The late acquisition of midfield maestro Troy Halpin has coincided with Olympic’s rise up the table. The form of striker Pablo Cardozo, who after a slow start to the season, has managed to tuck away 9 goals this term to be by far Olympic’s leading goal-scorer has also aided the NSW based club in improving their general form.
Perhaps the find of the season for Olympic can be seen in young midfielder Zenon Caravella. A relative of National coach Frank Farina, Caravella has repaid the faith of Papanikitas was some astute displays in the centre of the park that have been complemented by a decent return of 4 goals.
Conversely, South’s form in the past month has been nothing short of atrocious, with 4 consecutive losses and only 1 goal scored by the Albert Park based club during that spell, Coach Stuart Munro has been left to question the commitment and desire of his players. Injured defensive regulars Simon Storey and Mehmet Durakovic are back in contention for a place in the squad after recently resuming training. Their return would be a welcome addition as in particular the vast experience of Durakovic could prove to be very useful with the finals just around the corner.
That said, a general “lift” in intensity, passion and commitment is required by all South players, with the majority of players fit and the finals approaching, the players have to knuckle down and attempt to regain the early season form that saw them soar as high as first position early on in the season.