Friday, 19 March 2004 12:00 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
Saturday night South makes the trek to Hindmarsh Stadium for the Minor Semi Final. Eager to atone for a disappointing 2-0 loss to the John Kosmina coach side late in the regular season, South are now presented with not only an opportunity to avenge their disappointing defeat, but to also knock United out of the NSL final’s race.
After a sterling 2-0 victory against Marconi last week, Stuart Munro’s men are coming good at the business end of the season. In particular, influential attacking players Michael Panopoulos, Con Boutsianis, Michael Curcija and Massimo Murdocca – who were all outstanding against the Stallions – appear to have lifted their games to the next level. The just mentioned quartet were influential in all of South’s attacking raids last week with Curcija bagging a double and Boutsianis providing the two assists. Panopoulos was the warrior in the centre of the park whilst Murdocca was immense at running from box-to-box, chasing down the loose balls as well as piercing through the centre of the park with some of his customary dribbling.
Coach Munro who has named an unchanged squad from last week’s encounter will be looking towards the just mentioned quartet to be on song as South will no doubt be taking a more cautious approach away from home, hence, the ability to attack quickly and sharply will be crucial to the Lakeside club’s chances of nicking an all important goal.
A feature of South’s last two encounters has been the dogged defensive displays of Levent Osman and Ante Kovacevic. Both players were instrumental in helping the Albert Park based club to two clean sheets against the Stallions. Osman in particular has been extremely impressive considering he has missed a large chunk of the season due to injury. Both players will have to be in top form to help nullify the effect of not only the Adelaide frontline but more importantly, the Adelaide crowd who will be out in record numbers to help their boys through. Worth a mention is the expected large turnout of South supporters. With the club having sold out of its quota of tickets – believed to be in the region of 300 or so – as well a full bus organised by the infamous “Clarendon Corner” making the journey, South will have a sea of blue and white supporters by their side.
As always Adelaide remains a major threat on their home turf. With the match having sold out on Thursday the whole city of Adelaide is a-buzz with Saturday’s game. A United victory would cap off a superb debut season for the South Australian based club who began their campaign 4 weeks after the NSL season had begun and throughout have battled with catch-up fixtures. Coach John Kosmina has done the remarkable, managing to mesh a vastly experienced side with some genuine up-and-coming talent which has managed to defy all the odds to-date. Youthful midfield starlet Fred Agius has been superb in the 2nd half of the season, quite remarkably only last year Agius appeared disillusioned with his football and was playing SANFL reserves, his return to the NSL has been nothing short of breathtaking with his midfield displays at the heart of many Adelaide attacks.
Veterans Carl Veart, Aurelio Vidmar, Ross Aloisi, Michael Valkanis, Richie Alagich and Michael Brooks provide the core of the Adelaide side and possess a ton of experience at NSL level. Since returning to the forward line Veart has been in inspired form managing to bang home 10 goals to by far be United’s number 1 scorer. Veart will have to be influential if Adelaide is to break down the South backline.
Finally, Adelaide is coming off a 1-4 drubbing away to the Brisbane Strikers that saw them go almightily close to elimination. United can be thankful to keeper David Scarsella who pulled off a tremendous save in the dying seconds to prevent the Strikers from advancing to the next round. United will have to put on a far greater performance if they are to entertain thoughts of progressing to the Major Semi Final.