Monday, 30 May 2005 1:52 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne has escaped with a disappointing 2-2 draw at Churchill Reserve after an injury time header by Captain Vaughan Coveny earnt the visitors a point.
With Con Blatsis still on the sidelines nursing a calf injury and Dean Anastasiadis missing the game due to a personal engagement, Coach John Anastasiadis was forced to hand 2nd choice keeper Con Dimitropoulos his first start. Young defensive midfielder Evan Karavitis also made a return to the starting 11 with Ryan Dinse dropping to the bench.
South’s starting line-up read as follows. Dimitropoulos in goal, Arthur Tsonis and Sammy DeVito in the centre of defence. Rama Tavsancioglu at left back with Arthur Tsirtsakis patrolling the right. In the centre of the park Evan Karavitis partnered George Tzirtis with Scot MacNicol playing on the right wing and Peter Koutsoupias on the left. Up front Kosta Salapasidis played his usual supporting role to Vaughan Coveny who was deployed as an out-and-out striker.
South started more strongly dominating general possession and just looking like a far more cohesive outfit. Seven minutes in South’s first chance was created after the drifting Koutsoupias made some space for a 25-yard effort that went well over the bar.
South went ahead after 16 minutes when a delightful move was finished off by Tzirtis. The ball was played deep into the box to Koutsoupias’s feet with the strongly built winger/striker doing well to shield the ball and pick his moment for a perfect lay-off for the incoming Tzirtis. Tzirtis chose his spot and comfortably placed past the helpless St. Alban’s goalkeeper sending the travelling South faithful into mini delirium.
Twenty-Five minutes in pre-season South trialist and St. Albans winger Alibeyi Metin was released down the left. Metin tried to work his way into the box and just as the ball appeared to be nearing out for a goal kick, Arthur Tsonis produced what seemed like an innocent slide tackle but was deemed a foul by referee Dominic Barba who pointed to the spot after weighing up the decision for a good 10 or so seconds. Up stepped Ivan Filipovic who powerfully slotted past Dimitropoulos, who guessed right, but was beaten by the sheer precision and power of the spot kick that nestled in the bottom left corner.
Two other chances of note where created in the first half with a 32nd minute break down the right by MacNicol seeing the ex-Brechin player intelligently play a low cut-back to Coveny who took a touch and released a decent strike from just inside the box that the St. Albans keeper did well to parry away for a corner. Then 6 minutes before half time a seemingly harmless St. Albans free kick into the South box was missed by Dimitropoulos with a lurking St. Albans player on hand at the back post to square across the goal face only for the elegant DeVito to be astutely positioned for the clearance.
Three minutes after the break South were behind after an Ante Deak corner seemed to be held by Dimitropoulos only for the debutant keeper to spill the ball under pressure allowing for the opportunistic Ivan Razov to slam home the loose ball from 3 yards out.
It was a shattering blow to South who had controlled most of the game but had somehow found a way to fall behind by conceding two weak goals.
South started to press and were nearly rewarded when a Koutsoupias flick on the edge of the St. Albans area released MacNicol deep down the left. MacNicol whipped in a venomous low ball that must’ve passed the outstretched toes of at least 2-3 South players who couldn’t get the vital touch necessary to level proceedings.
Then in the 60th minute a deep and searching Karavitis ball from the centre of the park again released MacNicol down the left who did tremendously well to get a dangerous cross in with substitute Ryan Dinse arriving late and directing his header narrowly wide.
With South’s increased pressure seemingly going to waste, the visitors had a decent claim for a penalty in the 80th minute. Kosta Salapasidis had latched onto a pass and as he tried to wiggle his way past his direct marker he appeared to have been brought down. Referee Barba was expertly positioned to see the incident but waved play on.
The travelling South faithful had all but given up on getting a result and had resigned themselves to a disappointing defeat with the game now in injury time.
South hopingly pumped the ball up forward down the left where Karavitis had much to do. The South youngster went on to unleash an absolute stunning cross that was latched onto by Kiwi international Vaughan Coveny, who superbly directed a looping header over the St. Albans keeper to earn South a valuable point.