South Melbourne FC

The Blue and White Forever

South Melbourne vs. Altona Magic – Match Preview

South Melbourne vs. Altona Magic – Match Preview

Thursday, 10 March 2005 12:58 AM

By Michael Tsoukalis

After a three game hiatus from Bob Jane Stadium South Melbourne returns to familiar surroundings coming up against last season’s runners-up the Altona Magic.

The Magic have started the season in decent form and find themselves nestling near the top in 3rd position.

Conversely, South Melbourne have set the league alight in the opening 5 rounds defying all critics by registering 4 wins – 3 away from home – to comfortably sit atop the Vodafone Premier League on 13 points, 3 points clear of nearest rivals Green Gully.

The Magic have a squad bristling with NSL experience. Former South players Levent Osman, Marcus Stergiopoulos and Goran Lozanovski give Altona a strong defensive and midfield core with goalkeeper Martin John having had extensive NSL experience with the Melbourne Knights. Coached by the vastly experienced Ken Murphy – an assistant at South Melbourne last year – the Magic are a well coached, compact outfit who showed their resilience in last season’s VPL final’s series, surviving 3 consecutive sudden death encounters en route to the grand final.

South are unlikely to make any major changes to the side that defeated Oakleigh, Ryan Dinse will be available once more after serving his suspension, but with Peter Koutsoupias scoring the winner against the Cannons, his inclusion from the start appears doubtful.

One of South Melbourne’s strengths this season has been stability on the selection table, 8 players have featured in every game with Coach John Anastasiadis rightly showing faith in the players who have started the season so brightly. It’s no secret that the team’s defensive strength has provided the bedrock to the positive start with only one goal going past veteran custodian Dean Anastasiadis in the first 5 games.

Defensive colossus Con Blatsis has been superb in his two games thus far, showing remarkable composure and brilliant timing, his experience in Europe has no doubt help mould him into one of, if not the league’s premier defender. Up front Kosta Salapasidis has provided the cutting edge the side desperately needed during pre-season. Salapasidis’s vision, creativity, passing and close ball control have led to a direct involvement in 3 of South’s 5 goals to date.

South will be looking for a strong performance in front of its home fans after a string of impressive results away from home. A good crowd will be expected with a win helping consolidate South’s standing atop the Vodafone Premier League. Conversely, a win for the Magic will go a long way in helping them strengthen their position in the top 3, whilst a draw or loss could see them slide dramatically with 8 teams all within a game of the Ken Murphy-coached outfit.

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