Thursday, 19 May 2005 9:28 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
This coming Sunday South Melbourne travel to Heidelberg West to take on eternal rivals and current Vodafone Premier League high-flyers Heidelberg United for a chance to consolidate a top-two position.
After being promoted last season Heidelberg finds itself in a rich vein of form having won their last 5 games and sky-rocketing up the ladder in the same process.
With a few notable player departures and arrivals early on in the season, it appeared that disenchantment was rampant throughout the Berger playing camp. Former South Melbourne star Con Boutsianis was the most notable casualty re-enforcing the Heidelberg board’s 100% backing of Coach Phil Stubbins whilst early season recruit Ange Goutzioulis also departed for a player-coaching role at Bentleigh.
Former South left-back Fausto De Amicis was brought in to bolster United’s defensive stocks and was joined by the arrival of another ex-South Melbourne star in winger Goran Lozanovski. Lozanovski and De Amicis aside, the single most important acquisition of the VPL to-date saw young Striker Nick Marinos leave the Oakleigh Cannons and join the Bergers.
Marinos has been a revelation, scoring 6 goals in the past 4 games to spearhead Heidelberg’s mid-season climb up the table. Compact, quick and good on the ball, Marinos came back from a spell in Greek football at the beginning of the 2003/2004 season. A pre-season trial with South was unsuccessful with the young striker finding an NSL home in Sunshine with the Melbourne Knights. Marinos then spent a little over a season at Oakleigh where he struggled to get a game from the start.
Somewhat ironically when South met Oakleigh earlier this season Marinos had a goal ruled out for handball and will no doubt be out to continue his predatory form against John Anastasiadis’s men.
Marinos aside, the Bergers have influential players all over the park. Ex-Carlton and Melbourne Knight’s striker Joe Trcarico is a proven goal-scorer at VPL level and must be closely tracked with his partnership alongside Marinos having the potential to cause major headaches for the South defence.
Captain Eric Vassialiadis has been a stalwart all season with his workmanlike displays in the Berger’s midfield well complemented by the skills of ex-South youngster and Young Socceroo Billy Damianos who is trusted with the creative midfield role. Damianos’s rich array of passing, set piece wizardry and goal getting ability – he has netted 3 times this season – make him a serious threat.
Ex-Melbourne Knight’s keeper Lou Acevski is a well credentialed custodian who is supported by the intimidating frame of centre-back and ex-South defender Robert Liparoti whilst Isyan Erdogan provides further NSL experience to the Heidelberg defence with the youngster being able to play in midfield as well.
In the South camp Coach John Anastasiadis must be complemented on managing to turn a recent 3-game losing streak with 2 consecutive victories. The return of lion-heart centre-back Arthur Tsonis has coincided with South’s recent form reversal with Tsonis’s central defensive partnership alongside Con Blatsis continuing to prove the best defensive combination in the league.
However, the participation of Blatsis in Sunday’s game remains clouded with the colossal centre-back coming off early in the game against Bentleigh with a calf injury. Blatsis was to be assessed during the week with the initial feeling that he was a likely starter against the Bergers.
Youngster Sammy De Vito appears to have cemented his place at right-back after a solid display against the Greens. De Vito once again stuck to his task with aplomb and began to show glimpses of gaining in confidence with a few bursts forward and a general high assurance on the ball.
On the opposite side of defence Rama Tavsancioglu has been threatening to explode with his attacking raids complementing the excellent work done down the left by winger Ryan Dinse. Tavsancioglu’s defending has also been inspirational with the left-back competing for every ball with an intensity and commitment level that all South supporters have grown to appreciate.
Further positives for South lie in the recent form of the highly influential Kosta Salapasidis and Captain Vaughn Coveny. Both players have been at the hub of many South Melbourne attacks with Coveny providing an invaluable focal point up-front.
With the first round result between the two sides a nil-all stalemate both clubs will be super keen to take the points gaining a psychological advantage in the race for the minor premiership as well as giving their supporters rightful bragging rights.