Sunday, 15 May 2005 10:47 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne have got their final’s push back on track with a hard fought yet valuable 0-1 away victory against the Bentleigh Greens. A Peter Koutsoupias first half – close range – effort was enough to secure the points for the John Anastasiadis-coached outfit.
Obviously happy with his side’s performance the prior week, South coach Anastasiadis sent out an unchanged line-up. In goal veteran custodian Dean Anastasiadis took up his customary position in between the sticks. Arthur Tsonis and Con Blatsis formed the heart of the South backline with Rama Tavsancioglu at left back and Sammy DeVito holding onto his place on the right side of defence. In the centre of the park George Tzirtis and Scot MacNicol were trusted with the defensive and attacking midfield duties whilst Peter Koutsoupias and Ryan Dinse were deployed on the right and left wings respectively. Up front Kosta Salapasidis was given his usual free role with captain Vaughn Coveny used as a lone striker.
Bentleigh raced out of the blocks and could’ve gone ahead as early as the 1st minute after a corner wasn’t clearly dealt with by the South defence with the ball eventually falling to Bentleigh player-coach Angie Goutzioulis who from 5 yards out failed to keep his shot down and blazed over.
South had struggled to get into the game but in the 6th minute had serious claims for a penalty. Koutsoupias latched onto a searching ball down the right wing and managed to get in-front of his marker. Dribbling into the Bentleigh area Koutsoupias was halted by a desperate tackle from behind by a Bentleigh defender who appeared to catch the feet of the South winger/striker, however, play was waved on.
Nine minutes in Bentleigh failed to convincingly clear a South corner, the ball fell to Koutsoupias who with an angled ball released Blatsis down the right. Blatsis managed to get to the bi-line and squared a low ball across the Bentleigh goal-face that the incoming DeVito failed to connect cleanly with, seeing his final effort lob wide.
Defying their position on the table, Bentleigh were continuing to take the game to South highlighting the tremendous depth of this season’s championship. In the 18th minute a Bentleigh player found some space 20 or so yards out and unleashed a powerful low drive that had South custodian Dean Anastasiadis stranded. Thankfully for the visitors the strike sailed narrowly wide.
With no side clearly dominating South struck the vital first blow. Captain Coveny who had been superb in holding the ball up and bringing his team-mates into play was released down the right flank in the 22nd minute. The South skipper and Kiwi International cut inside the Bentleigh box and squared a perfect ball to the back-post for the late arriving Peter Koustoupias to slam home from 2 yards out.
South managed a half chance in the 38th minute after good work down the left by MacNicol saw the hard-working midfielder deliver a decent cross to the centre of the Bentleigh defensive area. The elusive Koutsoupias managed to out position his marker and rise for a header which he unfortunately mistimed and headed over.
Bentleigh then ended the half with two glorious chances that both fell to player-coach Goutzioulis. The first came in the 42nd minute after a long ball saw Goutzioulis outmuscle his direct marker and be left one-on-one with Anastasiadis. Goutzioulis chose to strike the ball early aiming for the bottom left corner and was unfortunate to see his shot trickle narrowly wide. Then in the 44th minute Goutzioulis was played in behind the South defence and on an advantageous angle, the Bentleigh striker took a touch too many to position himself for a strike with the South defence managing to close him down and clear the ball out for a corner.
The 2nd half saw not as many clear-cut chances created with both sides weary and aware of the importance of a positive result. South lost Con Blatsis 10 or so minutes into the half with a calf injury. The South colossus will be assessed during the week and will hopefully be able to line-up in next week’s derby against Heidelberg.
Fifty-eight minutes in a South long-ball from defence was latched upon by Koutsoupias who managed to wriggle past his marker upon entering the Bentleigh box. On his non-preferred left foot the speedy winger/striker failed to get any decent power on his effort which was easily saved by the Bentleigh keeper.
A minute later a superb reflex save by Dean Anastasiadis kept the score in South’s favour. Bentleigh had produced a quality piece of build-up play that ended with an effort on goal from 5 yards out that Anastasiadis reacted superbly to, managing to throw his gloves the opposite side of his body weight to keep the strike out.
Rama Tavsancioglu had been having a solid game at left back for the visitors and nearly produced a breathtaking goal in the 72nd minute. Tavsancioglu had received the ball deep in defence on the left, he slowly unleashed a devastating run that saw him cut inside the Bentleigh area and as he was about to strike the ball, a desperate Green’s defence managed to close him down and clear the ball out for a corner.
From the subsequent corner the ball managed to clear the Bentleigh defence and fall to the back-post where an unmarked Coveny, no doubt surprised by the chance, rushed his attempt and poked it over with the Bentleigh keeper stranded.
Brazilian import Fernando Moraes had been introduced 20 minutes into the 2nd half and came close – in the 73rd minute – to opening his South goal-scoring account. Moraes had received the ball at the top of the Bentleigh box; his first touch saw him make some space with his subsequent strike producing a sharp save from the Bentleigh custodian.
South were continuing to search for the killer 2nd goal and it nearly came after 79 minutes when a Moraes corner was headed across the goalmouth by Coveny only for lunging substitute Jesse Krncevic to see his goal-bound attempt slightly deflected for a corner.
Bentleigh however were refusing to succumb and saw player-coach Goutzioulis waste yet another chance in the 82nd minute. Bentleigh produced a decent cross from the right flank with Goutzioulis doing well to bring the ball down; however, his subsequent shot on-the-turn went well wide.
With Bentleigh pushing up in hope of snatching a late equaliser they nearly succumbed to a late South “sucker-punch”. Coveny had received the ball just past the half-way line, quickly looked up and produced a tremendous switch of play to an um-marked Moraes. The Brazilian quickly played in Krncevic who had only the keeper to beat. Unfortunately for the visitors the South youngster seemed to rush his attempt and subsequently produced a weak effort that the Bentleigh keeper comfortably gloved.