Sunday, 12 June 2005 8:22 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne have capitalised on Heidelberg’s Friday night loss to Oakleigh – moving into at least 2nd place – after a 93rd minute strike from winger Scot MacNicol gave John Anastasiadis’s men a hard fought yet priceless 3 points against the Bulleen Zebras.
Coach Anastasiadis made two changes to the starting eleven. In came winger Ryan Dinse with skipper Vaughan Coveny completing a remarkable turnaround leading the South attack after playing for New Zealand against the Socceroos in London on Friday and arriving back in Australia early this morning. Relegated to the substitutes bench were the unfortunate George Tzirtis and Brazilian import Fernando Moraes.
The South line-up read as follows. Dean Anastasiadis in goal with central defence seeing youngster Steven O’Dor partner Arthur Tsonis. Sammy DeVito and Rama Tavsancioglu played right and left back respectively. In the defensive midfield position Evan Karavitis again managed to start with Kosta Salapasidis deployed in an attacking midfield role. Scott MacNicol and Ryan Dinse patrolled the right and left wings whilst up front Vaughan Coveny was the target man with the speed of Peter Koutsoupias used off Coveny’s shoulder as a further attacking threat.
South started the game extremely shaky and lacking rhythm. Sensing their opportunity to get ahead early the Zebras nearly went ahead after 9 minutes when a deep cross from the left found the unmarked Ryan Ollerton on the back post. Ollerton directed his header on goal but Anastasiadis read the play superbly, pre-empting where Ollerton was trying to position his effort and as a result comfortably saving.
Two minutes later ex-South favourite Con Boutsianis should’ve put the Zebras ahead after sloppy defending from South saw the enigmatic striker pounce on the loose ball to be through 1-1 with Anastasiadis. Aiming for the far left corner Boutsianis was thwarted by a superb diving save by the South custodian, who again did superbly well to read Boutsianis’s intentions further proving his stance as one of if not the most valuable player in this season’s VPL.
Straight after Boustianis’s miss South quickly countered with Vaughn Coveny latching onto a long ball, skipping past his direct marker and unleashing a rocket-like left foot drive – destined for the top corner – that Bulleen keeper Bojo Jedvdjevic did well to tip over.
The game then experienced a lull in activity with the next significant chance falling the way of Bulleen midfielder Damian Guglielmi who from 25 or so yards out unleashed a stunning left-footed drive that had Anastasiadis at full stretch but thankfully for the home side sailed narrowly wide.
Thirty-nine minutes in South had a legitimate claim for a penalty turned down after a deep ball by Ryan Dinse into the Bulleen box found Koutsoupias 6 or so yards out. The striker used his body well to shield the ball and attempted to get around his man. As he was turning Koutsoupias appeared to be pulled down, but referee Robert Josifoski would have none of it and waved play on.
Bulleen should’ve gone ahead after a series of chances in the 41st minute, with South once again being saved by the heroics of Anastasiadis. The first chance came after an early cross from the right wing seemed to catch out Tsonis who slipped at the vital moment from what seemingly appeared an easy clearance allowing for ex-Green Gully striker Nick Lazarevski to produce a nice shot on the turn that Anastasiadis saved very sharply to his left.
Then from the next passage of play, a deep back post cross from the right evaded the whole South defence with a Bulleen player popping up the last moment to head on target, again Anastasiadis got his angles right and prevented the ball from going in. Finally from the rebound a testing Bulleen shot from just outside the box saw the South custodian manage to parry the danger away.
Just before half time MacNicol made some space for himself down the right wing and produced a stinging cross that Jevdjevic did well to punch away. The ball fell to the incoming Ryan Dinse who couldn’t keep his shot down and blazed over.
Coach Anastasiadis made two changes at half time. Arthur Tsonis appeared to be carrying an injury and made way for Arthur Tsirtsakis. Tsirtsakis went to right back with Tavsancioglu dropping into the centre of defence. The other change saw George Tzirtis replace Karavitis with coach Anastasiadis looking for perhaps more mobility in the centre of the park to help aid the search for the all important goal.
Koutsoupias had been working tirelessly all game and in the 47th minute was presented with a genuine chance to give South the lead. A Salapasidis cross from the left evaded the Bulleen defence with Koutsoupias reading the play well, pushing off his marker at the last moment and at full stretch latching onto the ball with some venom but unfortunately failing to keep it down.
Bulleen then went close in the 55th minute after midfielder Steve Martin produced a decent crack from outside the box that with the aid of a deflection managed to trickle just wide of the left upright with keeper Anastasiadis seemingly beaten.
Sixty-one minutes in Tzirtis played Koutsoupias through down the left hand side of the Bulleen box. Koutsoupias did well to make some space but failed to keep his subsequent shot low, blazing once again over the bar.
A minute later and South should’ve taken the lead. A long ball was played to Koutsoupias deep in the Bullen area. Koutsoupias did superbly well to offer a contest with the ball eventually falling to the incoming Dinse who with only Jevdjevic to beat and with the keeper wrong-footed, sent side-footed shot inches wide of the left upright.
Coach Anastasiadis then sent on Brazilian recruit Fernando Moraes, hoping to get some bite and energy from the centre of the park. Moraes responded looking lively and sharp on the ball. His 72nd free-kick was hit low and well but was easily saved by Jevdjevic. Then 78 minutes in Moraes made some space for himself deep into the Bulleen defensive half. Unfortunately his shot wasn’t on target but the Brazilian was at least starting to provide headaches for the Bulleen defence.
With the game seemingly destined for a draw South nearly snatched it. Coveny broke down the right in the 91st minute and whipped in a quality cross that the buzzing Koutsoupias did well to win. The ex-Whittlesea Stallions front-man directed his header – textbook style – low into the ground and with Jevdjevic clearly beaten a lick of paint denied Koutsoupias his hat-trick of scoring in 1-0 South victories this season.
Many fans had begun leaving the ground when South managed to settle the tie. Moraes broke free in the centre of the park and calmly laid the ball off to Coveny at the top of the Bulleen box. Coveny attempted to place his effort into the bottom corner but his shot was blocked. Fortunately for South the ball was deflected into the path of MacNicol who with still much to do and on a tight angle managed to rip a low, bullet like 93rd minute drive past Jevdjevic and into the bottom right hand corner.
Coach John Anastasiadis was overwhelmed with emotion, running onto the pitch and punching the air. But referee Josifoski had other ideas. The official somehow found 6 minutes of extra time and late in the game gave Bulleen a free-kick just outside the South box in Con Boutsianis territory. The South wall did its job with the Albert Park-based club managing to escape with a vital victory.