South Melbourne FC

The Blue and White Forever

Referee keeps Bob Jane faithful guessing

Referee keeps Bob Jane faithful guessing

Monday, 1 August 2005 2:13 PM

By Michael Tsoukalis

A dose of bad luck and a lack of finishing have cost South Melbourne a chance to claim the coveted Vodafone Premier League top spot.

A seemingly non-existent penalty that lead to Essendon’s equaliser and the failure to award the home side a clear cut penalty late in the proceedings left the South Melbourne faithful dumbfounded.

Coach Anastasiadis no doubt pleased with last week’s result fielded an almost exact replica of the starting line-up that took the field against Preston. A re-organisation of the defence was necessary due to the absence of Ramazan who is currently in Turkey for trials. In came giant defender Arthur Tsonis returning from suspension to form the central defensive partnership with the ever improving Steven O’Dor. Evan Karavitis continued in his newly found right-back role and Sammy DeVito took up the left-back position. Of course the ever-reliable Dean Anastasiadis was found in goals.

In the centre of the park, Arthur Tsirtsakis again played in the defensive midfield position with Scot MacNicol the more advanced and attacking centre-man. Out wide Ryan Dinse and silky Brazilian Fernando played on the left and right respectively leaving Robbie Cattanach to partner South skipper Vaughn Coveny up front.

From the onset South started to dominate possession. No clear cut chances were created in the opening exchanges but it was the home side that was pressuring in an unrelenting manner.

Eight minutes in and South had their first dangerous attack. Coveny was released down the left and made his way into the Royal’s box. The South skipper produced a dangerous cross that the Essendon defence struggled to clear. The ball fell to the incoming MacNicol who from outside the box unleashed a deflected strike that sailed narrowly over the crossbar.

A minute later and South nearly capitalised from the ensuing corner with the eventual header lacking power and comfortably nestling in the arms of the Royal’s keeper.

In the 11th minute Cattanach and Coveny showed that they are forming a decent understanding after a long ball from the South defence was brilliantly controlled by Cattanach. With Coveny timing his run to perfection Cattanach played the Kiwi international in behind the Essendon defence with the South skipper unleashing a powerful left-foot drive that was deflected – by a closing defender – narrowly wide.

Nineteen minutes in and South had a decent claim for a penalty after a Ryan Dinse cross from the left was headed back across the Essendon box with a Royal’s defender appearing to make contact with his hand. The referee ignored South’s claims and waved play on.

Brazilian import Fernando had slowly been working himself into the game. The Brazilian has grown in stature in the past month and once again displayed his increasing importance to the South cause. His 24th minute strike nearly caught the Essendon keeper napping with the Brazilian unleashing a rocket-like effort from 25-30 yards that was destined for the top corner with the Royal’s keeper reacting late but still managing to glove on the second attempt.

Then in the 28th minute, South went ahead. A deep cross was delivered to the back post with Coveny managing to loose his marker and head towards goal. The Essendon keeper managed to save Coveny’s initial attempt but the ball fell delightfully into his path for the Kiwi international to smack home the rebound.

South’s lead though a thoroughly deserved one didn’t last long. Two minutes after South went ahead, Essendon were level. A dangerous counter down the right flank saw a low cross played into the South box. Arthus Tsonis dealt with the danger relatively comfortably; however, the referee saw what appeared to be a questionable infringement in the box and hence pointed to the spot. Such was the mysteriousness behind the call, that no-one in the stadium could explain what the penalty was given for. Up stepped ex-South striker and VPL leading marksmen Michael Curcija to comfortably slot past Dean Anastasiadis.

South were no doubt rattled from the apparent poor decision of the referee and suffered an almost costly defensive lapse in the 38th minute after the ball was knocked around 3-4 times without any advancement up the pitch. Upon attempting to clear Tsonis slipped and gave the ball away to the Essendon attack who but for a lunging O’Dor, who also managed to clear, would’ve had a clear cut opportunity.

A minute later, O’Dor produced a superb ball down the right flank that completely played in Coveny who had managed to spring the offside trap. Narrowing in on goal and with only the keeper to beat, the South Skipper unleashed an angled drive that went narrowly wide.

The 2nd half followed a similar pattern to the first with South continuing to dominate possession.

An indirect 49th minute free-kick saw the excellent Fernando again go close from distance. The Brazilian had the ball laid off to him with his subsequent strike going just over the bar.

Essendon best chance from open play arrived in the 51st minute after a corner was expertly nodded across the South goalmouth with a lunging Anastasiadis at full stretch to push the ball onto the right upright with the South defence scrambling to clear.

Fernando was at it again in the 57th minute after a quality run down the right saw the Brazilian weave his way past a couple of helpless Royal’s defenders. Unfortunately for the home side Fernando’s subsequent strike wasn’t hit well with the ball trickling well wide without troubling the Royal’s keeper.

South should’ve taken the lead in the 64th minute after excellent vision from MacNicol spotted an unmarked Coveny down the right flank. The South skipper produced a tantalising cross that completely took out the Royal’s keeper; a lunging Fernando stuck out his leg on the back post but just couldn’t direct the ball home. Perhaps a diving header may have resulted in a better outcome for the home side.

South’s best opening came in the 74th minute after Cattanach instinctively stole the ball from an Essendon defender. Left with only the Essendon keeper to beat, Cattanach tried to place his shot into the bottom left corner but failed with his attempt, pushing his side foot effort narrowly wide when he should’ve scored.

Essendon then tried to hang onto the result by focussing on their defensive play. However, in the 89th minute South were once again denied by an amazing refereeing decision. Fernando received the ball on the right hand side of the Royal’s box. The silky Brazilian did his usual trickery and as he was about to push forward for a cross, his back leg was clearly clipped with the Brazilian falling down. The referee and the linesman were perfectly positioned to make the correct call, but both failed to intervene to the astonishment of everyone in the stadium.

Moments later the final whistle blew with South having lost a genuine opportunity to go top.

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