Monday, 15 March 2004 12:00 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South favourite Mehmet Durakovic could not have had a better farewell. Inspired by a dazzling midfield display from midfield trio Massimo Murdocca, Michael Panopoulos and Con Boutsianis not to mention the clinical finishing of Michael Curcija, South Melbourne turned on the style and produced a comprehensive and professional display to defeat Marconi 2-0 and hence advance to the next stage of the final’s series.
Post-match celebrations spilled onto the playing arena as passionate South Melbourne supporters invaded the pitch to celebrate the victory as well as to give their well wishes to one of their favourite sons, Durakovic.
The match started with the ground a-buzz, a massive turnout was present as the importance of the encounter produced a notable tension throughout Bob Jane Stadium. South needed their supporters to lend a hand and today’s turnout will do no harm for South’s application for next year’s revamped competition.
To the action and it was obvious that early on South were somewhat tentative as conceding a goal would’ve greatly complicated their progress to the next stage. Calm was needed and the protagonist to initiate it was midfield genius Massimo Murdocca. Receiving the ball near the edge of the Marconi box, Murdocca weaved his way past a couple of helpless Marconi defenders and proceeded to unleash a delicate chip over the Stallion’s defence and into the path of South Captain Vaughn Coveny. As Coveny took a touch, Marconi custodian Michael Turnbull quickly rushed out to smother Coveny’s eventual 8th minute attempt.
South had now started to dominate possession, however, to the visitor’s credit; strikers Alex Brosque and Joe Spiteri looked extremely dangerous on the break with Brosque continuing his long-range battle with South keeper Eugene Galekovic. In the space of ten or so minutes, Brosque had three decent attempts at the South goalmouth with his most notable coming in the 18th minute after he found some space in behind the South backline only to see his subsequent weak effort gloved well by Galekovic.
With South settling into the game, the enigmatic Con Boutsianis once again showed just why he’s a man for the big occasion. Receiving the ball on the left flank, Boutsianis produced a dazzling early cross over the non-expectant Marconi defence and onto the head of returning striker Michael Curcija who still with much to do, managed to angle his header past a diving Turnbull to send South ahead in the 20th minute. It was a spectacular goal that oozed the touch of a magician, such was the quality of Boutsianis’s ball and the subsequent header, one almost felt sorry for the Marconi defence who were powerless to prevent what had just unfolded.
Curcija’s goal was not overly celebrated as South knew that with a score-draw Marconi would still get through. The 22nd minute provided South with a genuine scare, Nick Carle had been well held in the first 20 minutes however he came to the fore in a big way, Carle drew 3 South defenders paving the way for attacking left flanker Brendan Renaud to steam through on goal in acres of space. Carle played the ball perfectly but fortunately for the home side, Renaud scuffed his shot wide.
Scared into retaliation by Renaud’s near miss South went on an onslaught. First a 27th minute Michael Panopoulos searching ball into the box eluded all except an incoming Coveny who momentarily lost his balance and thus wasn’t able to make decent contact to test Turnbull. Then the ultra consistent Ante Kovacevic unleashed a 35 yard rocket that keeper Turnbull gloved at the 2nd attempt. With Boutsianis’s left foot in magnificent cultured touch, the South talisman nearly doubled the home side’s advantage with a superbly struck – always dipping – 30 yard effort that seemed to have beaten Turnbull but unfortunately for the home side, just skimmed the Marconi custodian’s crossbar.
With South dominating all over the park, ex-Melbourne Knights front-man Joe Spiteri reminded the South faithful that Marconi were far from done. With 42 minutes played Spiteri dispossessed Kovacevic right in the centre of the park, rushing towards goal the Marconi striker sold a step-over to create some space and then tried to curl the ball past Galekovic from outside the box. It was a decent attempt that curled narrowly wide.
The moment the 2nd stanza began it was obvious that South coach Stuart Munro had instructed his troopers to search for the all important 2nd goal. 51 minutes in a Boutsianis free-kick was headed towards Sam Poutakidis who from a very tight angle just outside the box, sent a sliced volley towards Turnbull’s goal that had the Marconi keeper beaten but agonisingly skimmed the right upright. 2 minutes later South were at it again after the brilliant Boutsianis released Curcija with a delicately chipped through ball that left the South striker with only Turnbull to beat. Curcija went for power and struck wide; the ball hit the side netting temporarily confusing a partial pocket of the South crowd who thought the 2nd goal had arrived.
However, only a minute later the 2nd goal did arrive, with South pressuring on the edge of the Marconi box, the ball was played into the feet of Boutsianis who was positioned around the penalty spot with his back to goal. Boustainis tried to turn around his direct marker and did enough to see the ball bobble free towards the unmarked Curcija who had the easiest of tasks to tap home and double South’s advantage.
From the second goal onwards South were intent to hold onto the ball to try and protect their two-goal advantage. For the most part the Lakesiders did a splendid job with Coach Munro utilising his full compliment of substitutes to bring fresh legs into the game as well as to further sure-up the defensive line. South nullified Marconi’s attacks with the only genuine chance arriving in the 87th minute after lovely interplay on the edge of the South defensive area saw Carle find space only to see his close range effort parried by Galekovic.
After 4 minutes of stoppage time referee Shield blew the whistle and the South faithful erupted. Emotions were sky high with a passionate pitch invasion conducted by a great deal of the home side’s supporters who engulfed retiring legend Mehmet Durakovic. A fitting farewell for the South Melbourne icon.