Monday, 25 April 2005 11:35 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
Football is a funny game and tonight South Melbourne felt the full brunt of its wrath. After dominating for 80 minutes and appearing fully at ease with a 0-2 lead, South inexplicably conceded 3 goals in the last 10 minutes to leave the Veneto Club with a third consecutive loss.
After suffering narrow 1-goal defeats to Green Gully and Preston, South were eager to get their season back on track with a solid performance. Coach John Anastasiadis made two changes to the line-up. Peter Koutsoupias came in on the right wing replacing Vasilios Natsioulas who is anticipated to miss between 5-6 games with glandular fever.
In the centre of the park George Tzirtis regained his spot in the starting 11 replacing Brazilian import Fernando Moraes who was relegated to the bench. Dean Anastasiadis took up his usual position in goals whilst Steven O’Dor continued to fill in for the injured Arthur Tsonis, partnering Con Blatsis in the centre of defence with Rama Tavsancioglu and Arthur Tsirtsakis patroling the left and right wing-back positions respectively. In the centre of the park Scot MacNicol joined Tzirtis, with Ryan Dinse and Peter Koutsoupias playing on the left and right flanks. Up front the roaming Kosta Salapasidis was deployed in his usual free role, supporting club skipper Vaughn Coveny who was the lone man up front.
South started the game much more confidently and had a decent chance as early as the 4th minute. An overlapping run by Arthur Tsirtsakis saw the ex-Trikala player produce a stinging cross that was met by Coveny who headed over after perhaps misjudging the pace of the ball.
Tsirtsakis was at it again after 11 minutes, breaking down the right and then making his way into the box squaring the ball dangerously low only for the Essendon defence to clear.
Half chances then fell to Tavsancioglu in the 15th minute and Tzirtis in the 21st. Tavsancioglu blazed over after a Salapasidis corner fell to the edge of the area, whilst Tzirtis had intelligently made some space for himself through the centre of the park and then unleashed a 25 yard effort that looked to be going wide but still produced a save from the Essendon keeper.
South should’ve been ahead in the 26th minute after a superb run down the left by the excellent Salapasidis saw the ex-Parramatta player spot a darting late run – in the heart of the Essendon defensive area – by Dinse. Salapasidis looked to measure his pass and tried to square the ball along the ground. Fortunately for Essendon their covering defender did just enough to put Dinse off, lunging at the ball which eventually ricocheted of Dinse and went out for a goal-kick.
South continued to apply pressure on the Essendon goal and saw another great chance go begging. This time Kiwi striker Coveny was released by a superb 28th minute over-the-top through ball that released the South Captain on a slight angle. Coveny initially took the ball even wider but as he entered the box, the Kiwi unleashed a powerful near-post strike that the Essendon custodian did well to save with his feet.
South’s dominance was finally rewarded in the 30th minute after a deep cross from MacNicol on the left hand side was nodded down – across the goalmouth – superbly by Coveny into the path of the oncoming Dinse, who in the same stride, toe-poked the ball home from 6 yards out.
After going in front South were eager to show they could produce more than a solitary goal. Tsirtsakis once again made space down the right-flank; his centre was immediately laid back by Dinse into the path of Koutsoupias who sent his susbsequent 32nd minute strike well wide.
Essendon then gave South two minor heart-flutters. First a quality back-post 39th minute cross was met by Curcija who failed to keep his header down and headed over. Then a quick break down the right-flank saw the Royals whip in a stinging ball that Anastasiadis managed to get a glove to, the ball deflected straight through the middle of the South defensive area but fortunately for the visitors their was no Essendon player following through.
Right before the half-time whistle South blew a golden chance. Salapasidis brilliantly broke down the right flank, he waited a slight second then floated in an inch-perfect 42nd minute cross that Coveny seemed not to be expecting. The Kiwi snatched at his effort sending it wide when he was only 4 yards out and on a slight angle.
South began the 2nd half continuing their general dominance. As early as the 46th minute Scot MacNicol blazed a 25 yard crack narrowly wide.
Then 51 minutes in, Salapasidis once again produced a telling cross, picking out the rising Coveny who connected with a looping header that the Royals’ keeper managed to glove easily.
South had worked hard all game, continuously applying pressure in search of the all important second goal. Fifty-three minutes in it finally arrived. Dinse was released down the left wing, the speedy Scottish winger appeared to have taken the ball too wide but at the last moment still managed to produce a looping back-post cross. Dinse’s centre was inch-perfect, allowing for skipper Coveny to rise above all and nod home a text-book back post header, crashing the ball into the ground and leaving the Royals’ keeper with no chance.
Two-nil up South looked to apply the icing on the cake. Sixty-two minutes in a MacNicol centre from the left was intuitively headed on by Coveny into the path of Dinse. The winger chested down well and as he was about to execute his volley a desperate Essendon defender managed to close him down.
Coveny was proving a constant thorn in the Essendon defence and again found himself with an opportunity to add another. This time the Kiwi used his pace to break free of the Royals’ backline, almost latching onto an over-the-top through ball in the 71st minute. Fortunately for Essendon their keeper was aware and quickly came out, smothering the danger but in the same process, almost handling the ball outside the area.
Seventy-nine minutes in Coveny once again met a ball in the box sending a looping header to the back-post. Con Blatsis was narrowing in and was literally a toe away from tapping into an empty net.
With South appearing home and hosed, complacency set in. The defence had been faultless all evening until the 80th minute when Tsirtsakis tried to dribble through trouble. Tsirtsakis was dispossessed and Essendon played a quick ball into the South area. Steven O’Dor appeared to be in control of the situation but failed to realise that Ricky Catalano was right on his shoulder, O’Dor tried to turn on the ball but by then it was too late; Catalano had nipped in and sent a well placed strike in off the right upright.
South immediately countered straight after kick-off with Coveny breaking down the right and sending an angled shot just past the opposite upright.
Eighty-Seven minutes in, Ex-South front-man Michael Curcija failed to capitalise on a flat-footed South defence who in assuming an offside call was about to be made, left the former Olyroo through on goals with only Anastasiadis to beat, fortunately for South, Curcija rushed his shot and blazed well over.
Essendon however continued to push, sensing the South defence was crumbling the Royals once again raided the left wing, a sharpish 89th minute cross came in from the bi-line with Catalano on hand again – at the near post – to nod past a hapless Anastasiadis.
South’s capitulation was then written in stone after the Royals again exposed a massive hole down the left-flank. The ball was squared right across the face of goal for Michael Curcija to tap into an empty net for a priceless injury-time winner, at the same time confirming the most amazing fight-back seen in the Vodafone Premier League to-date.