Sunday, 20 March 2005 9:48 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne have escaped with an extremely fortunate and scrappy 1-1 draw at Knight’s Stadium. But for the heroics of veteran Custodian Dean Anastasiadis – who was inspirational between the South uprights – the Albert Park-based outfit could’ve left Somers St suffering a heavy defeat.
With South forced to reorganise at the back after the suspension of Arthur Tsirtsakis, Steven O’Dor was brought into the centre of defence alongside Con Blatsis, Arthur Tsonis switched to a left back role with Rama Tavsancioglu playing on the right. The rest of the first 11 remained unchanged from the game on Monday against Altona, with Dean Anastasiadis in goal, a midfield consisting of left winger Peter Koutsoupias, Scot MacNicol and Evan Karavitis in the centre with Vasilios Natsioulas on the right. Up front Vaughn Coveny and Kosta Salapasidis were once again handed the reigns of leading the front-line.
The game kicked off with little fanfare, for a game that has been the pinnacle of Melbournian football for decades the atmosphere was somewhat subdued. However, somewhere in between the lack of derby flair, South managed to take the lead. With only 4 minutes played an Arthur Tsonis ball down the left wing found the roving Scot MacNicol who managed to work his way into the Knight’s box with some fancy footwork, from an almost impossible angle, MacNicol somehow managed to nutmeg veteran Knight’s custodian and captain Adrian Cagalj, with Cagalj looking agonisingly on as the ball trickled over the line.
South taking an unlikely early lead was the catalyst for the Knight’s to step up a gear. The chances started to flow with pacy forward Albert Gjuni kicking off the start of the onslaught when he burst past the South defence – down the right hand side – in the 10th minute, worked his way into the South box and unleashed a venomous drive that Anastasiadis did tremendously well to parry and to then gather on the 2nd attempt.
Two minutes later a good cross was whipped in from the left with an unmarked Knight’s player directing his header well but with little power behind the effort, Anastasiadis comfortably gloved.
With 14 minutes played, South hesitated in defence when they should’ve cleared long, the ball fell to a roaming Knight’s player who unleashed a rocket-strike with Anastasiadis managing to save and the South defence eventually clearing.
In between the Knight’s domination South managed to create a decent chance after Evan Karavitis released Vasilios Natsioulas down the right with a quality through ball, Natsioulas produced a stinging 18th minute cross that Cagalj did very well to hold.
The Knight’s quickly resumed their domination after a superb 19th minute piece of individual skill from Tomi Razov nearly lead to the equaliser. Razov received the ball on the right, he worked his way towards the South box, leaving the South defence in his wake with some tricky footwork and with only Anastasiadis to beat, his outside-of-the-foot low placed strike was brilliantly anticipated by the South custodian who was quickly down to glove.
South were further rocked when a 21st minute error by Karavitis saw his mistimed header fall straight to Gjuni who bolted towards the South goal, enter the box, but unfortunately for the home side, Gjuni shot straight at Anastasiadis. Two minutes later Karavitis was booked for a challenge just outside the South defensive area, the resulting free-kick by Ivan Zuvela was hit with good height and power but lacked the necessary accuracy to force Anastasiadis into a save.
Twenty-seven minutes had been played when gritty South midfielder Scot MacNicol’s brilliant reading of the play saw him intercept the ball in the centre of park. MacNicol quickly turned on the pace and looked destined for a 1-on-1 chance with Cagalj only to see his run maliciously stopped by Tommy Milardovic who purposely brought down MacNicol just outside the area. Somehow Milardovic escaped with only a yellow card with the resulting Salapasidis free-kick hit failing to trouble Cagalj.
MacNicol was on the warpath for a double and nearly had his second after a deep 30th minute Salapasidis cross from the right evaded the entire Knight’s defence and fell perfectly to the ex-Brechin player who cracked a thunderous volley – that appeared destined to for the back of the net – straight into the face of an unfortunate Knight’s defender.
Then in the 33rd minute, South colossus Con Blatsis made a quality deep run towards the Knight’s goalmouth, using his close control to evade two defenders, Blatsis unleashed a powerful drive that was deflected just wide of Cagalj’s goal.
The half ended with Knight’s defender Neven Antic going agonisingly close to equalising for the Sunshine-based club. Antic had made a quality 44th minute run down the right, entered the South area and saw his textbook across-the-goalmouth strike go inches wide from the bottom left upright.
After an exciting first half the 2nd stanza didn’t disappoint. The Knight’s were desperate for an equaliser and came close in the 48th minute after a cross from the right was punched away by Anastasiadis only to fall straight to Chris Emsovski who lacked the cool head required to fire home. South countered almost immediately and in the 49th minute Vasilios Natsioulas made a quality right-sided run deep into the Knight’s area. Natsioulas squared the ball past Cagalj but there was a Knight’s player sitting on the line to clear.
Natsioulas was at it again after 56 minutes, his brilliant close control in the centre of the park released Tavsancioglu down the right, the lighting-quick South wingback took a touch, cut inside, and then unleashed a stinging left foot drive that Cagalj tipped over for a corner.
The Knights were unrelenting and in the 60th minute nearly punished South for a poor defensive header. With the headed clearance falling straight to Dario Matkovic, the gutsy Knight’s midfielder from the top of the South box fired straight at Anastasidis.
After distinguishing himself all evening with his brilliant performance in goal, Anastasiadis pulled off another superb save in the 69th minute. This time the South custodian once again denied Razov who had sent an angled, right-sided drive from inside the South area towards the visitor’s goal.
One minute later Anastasiadis was at it again, reacting brilliantly from close range to prevent former South midfielder Alex Kiratzoglou who had positioned himself nicely to meet a quality low centre from the right.
With South hanging on two late chances nearly sealed the tie. In the 87th minute substitute George Tzirtis’s brilliant through-ball released fellow substitute Jesse Krncevic who found himself with only Cagalj to beat. Krncevic tried to place towards the bottom right but Cagalj managed to get the slightest of fingertips onto the ball, deflecting narrowly past the right upright. Then in the direct next play, good work down the right by Salapasidis saw the ball eventually fall to Tzirtis, the South midfielder unleashed a powerful strike straight at Cagalj who had little trouble in fisting away.
Seconds away from the final whistle the Knights were finally rewarded for their general dominance. A Karavitis error in the centre of the park saw the Knight’s midfield quickly seize the ball and release Daniel Rocco down the right. Rocco still had a bit to do but managed to pass his direct man, work his way into the box and send a quality low ball across the South area that Anastasiadis got a hand to, only to see the ball fall to the back post for substitute Andrew Barisic to smash home and electrify the home crowd.
Melbourne Knights 1, Barisic 92
South Melbourne 1, MacNicol 4
Venue: Knights Stadium, Sunshine
Attendance about 4000
Referee: Hakan Anaz
Melbourne Knights: (3-5-2) Cagalj (c), Klarica (Gelemanovic 39), Milardovic, Zuvela, Antic, Rocco, Emsovski, Hrvoje Matkovic, Razov (Dario Matkovic 82), Gjuni (Barisic 74), Kiratzoglou. Subs not used: Filipovic (GK), Jurijevic.
South Melbourne: (4-5-1) Dean Anastasiadis, Tavsancioglu (Tzirtis 59), O’Dor, Blatsis, Tsonis, Natsioulas (Krncevic 82), Salapasidis, MacNicol, Karavitis, Koutsoupias (Dinse 74), Coveny (c). Subs not used: Curtis, Dimitropulos (GK).
Cautions: Klarica (MK) 16, Emsovski (MK) 20, Karavitis (SM) 23, Milardovic (MK) 27, Hrvoje Matkovic (MK) 43, Zuvela (MK) 63, Tsonis (SM) 89, Kiratzoglou (MK) 92.
Red Cards: (none)