South Melbourne FC

The Blue and White Forever

Boy from Brazil dazzles in the Elim. Final

Boy from Brazil dazzles in the Elim. Final

Saturday, 27 August 2005 11:45 AM

By Michael Tsoukalis

South Melbourne has produced a scintillating performance to smash the Altona Magic 3-0 and hence firm as a genuine championship contender.

From the onset John Anastasiadis’s men played an attacking and free-flowing game consistent with the traditional South Melbourne style of football and ultimately could’ve run away with a much larger triumph.

With practically a full set of players to choose from, Coach John Anastasiadis went for experience leaving the likes of Vasilios Natsioulas, Steven O’Dor and Gianni De Nittis on the bench.

South’s starting 11 read as follows. The ever-consistent Dean Anastasiadis started in between the uprights. Con Blatsis and Arthur Tsonis re-commenced their physically intimidating central defensive pairing with youngster Sammy De Vito and crowd favourite Ramazan in the right and left back positions respectively. In the centre of the park Arthur Tsirtsakis continued in his newly found role as a defensive midfielder partnering Kosta Salapasidis who was trusted with the attacking central-midfield role. Out wide the in-form Fernando ‘Liliko’ took up the left-flank position whilst Scot MacNicol occupied the right leaving Captain Vaughan Coveny to partner Robbie Cattanach up front.

South began the game in a positive manner. As early as the 1st minute a Tsonis corner from the left was met by a rising Blatsis who unfortunately directed his header straight into the arms of Altona keeper Martin John.

Altona then reminded South of their attacking potency almost capitalising on a defensive lapse in the 4th minute which saw an Altona player break free of the South defence momentarily, but when attempting to chip Anastasiadis struck the ball hesitantly with Anastasiadis managing to eventually glove.

South then settled their nerves when a superbly worked piece of interplay saw the home side take the lead. MacNicol had managed to whip a 7th minute cross from the right flank to edge of the Altona box which Coveny managed to flick on with a delicate header to the back post where an astutely positioned Fernando was on hand to volley home off the underside of the crossbar.

The goal immediately raised South’s confidence with the home side now dictating the possession stakes. However, the Magic still managed to test Anastasiadis twice. First a 20th minute strike from outside the box had the South custodian at full stretch whilst a 23rd minute free kick, just outside the box on the right hand side forced Anastasiadis into a sharp save on his near post. In between both efforts South could’ve doubled their advantage when MacNicol found himself all alone in the Altona box after a fortunate bobble fell his way. Unfortunately for the home side, MacNicol failed to make sufficient contact with his angled strike, the ex-Brechin player still managed to wrong foot goalkeeper John but ultimately the Altona keeper saved with his legs.

South then doubled their advantage; a long ball from defence was superbly nodded on by Coveny who with his header managed to tear open the Altona defence allowing for the ever-alert Cattanach to latch onto the ball. When Cattanach looked up he saw goalkeeper John way off his line with the NSW Premier League Player of the Year managing to keep his head and comfortably chip John to put South two goals up after 29 minutes.

A minute later and Cattanach could’ve iced it after he found some space on the right hand side of the Altona box and sent his angled drive narrowly wide of the left upright with John beaten.

Three minutes before half time, arguably South’s most consistently outstanding performer, Dean Anastasiadis, once again showed the hallmarks of a superb goalkeeper, making the brilliant save when called upon. An Altona player found himself 1-1 with Anastasiadis with the South custodian coming out very quickly and making himself as big as possible, managing to block the eventual effort on goal.

South began the 2nd half in similar fashion to the first. Two minutes in MacNicol unleashed a wicked and dipping right-foot effort – from just outside the area – that sailed narrowly wide of the top right-hand corner.

Altona should’ve pulled a goal back in the 54th minute after a deep back post cross from the left evaded the South defence and found an Altona player all alone on the back post. The player cut inside and struck a tame effort towards the target that was cleared off the line by a desperate South defence. Altona appealed for handball but referee Perry Mur waved play on.

Fully aware of the safety in getting a 3rd goal, South went on an attacking frenzy. Fernando was having a field day on the left and was at the end of a 57th minute break down the right that saw a square ball from MacNicol “dummied” by Coveny only for the Brazilian to cut inside and blaze his effort over the crossbar.

A minute later Fernando was at it again, this time the Brazilian sensation produced a firmly struck 25 yard “daisy-cutter” straight at keeper John.

Immediately after Fernando’s effort Cattanach intelligently played in MacNicol who with a decent touch would’ve found himself with only John to beat. As it played out MacNicol’s touch was poor with the Altona defence managing to close him down.

MacNicol however almost made amends when a nice through ball from Tsirtsakis saw the South winger attempt a curling top-corner effort from just outside the area that John – at full stretch – managed to hold onto.

Sixty-four minutes in and South put the nail in the coffin. A free-kick from a central position by the “magic” Fernando picked out a rising Tsonis who from point blank range steered his header past a helpless John who remained stationary throughout the super precise execution of the set-piece.

Altona refused to lie down with a 66th minute free-kick from just outside the South box working its way under the wall but straight into the gloves of a thankful Anastasiadis.

Then in the 69th minute an Altona corner from the right fell to the edge of the South area where a thunderous drive came in. Thankfully for South, Salapasidis had fallen to the ground just before the strike managing to smother the ball albeit somewhat unconvincingly, with his chest.

The 73rd minute saw the most electrifying moment of the encounter. Man-of-the-match Fernando received the ball on the left flank 35 or so yards out. The Brazilian cut inside and somehow fashioned a makeshift pile-driver that whizzed past a stranded John who could only stare in amazement as the ball cannoned off the right upright. It was a moment of sheer brilliance by the “boy from Brazil” with the South faithful gushing in amazement at the closeness and audacity of Fernando’s spectacular effort.

South then finished the game with 3 decent chances. First off a sharp turn by substitute Gianni DeNittis saw Cattanach released down the right flank in acres of space. Cattanach produced a quality low ball that found unmarked substitute Vasilios Natsioulas all alone. Unfortunately for the home side Natsioulas failed to direct his glancing 80th minute effort on goal.

Cattanch was then released down the right side of the Altona defensive area; however, the South marksman rushed his angled 89th minute strike and blazed over.

Finally, the tiresome work of defensive midfield dynamo Arthur Tsirtsakis was nearly rewarded when he unleashed a powerful 90th minute 25 yard drive that sailed narrowly wide of John’s right upright.

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