Thursday, 8 September 2005 8:59 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
This Sunday sees two of Australia’s premier clubs not to mention eternal rivals square up against one another for a chance at a 2005 Vodafone Premier League Grand Final birth.
South Melbourne missed a golden opportunity at securing a week off and a Grand Final placing last week after agonisingly losing to Green Gully in a penalty shootout.
Conversely, the Phil Stubbin’s coached Heidelberg United, inspired by a 2 goal effort from deadly marksmen Nick Marinos, produced a solid display in managing to defeat by 3 goals to 1 an Oakleigh Cannons outfit that was previously in a rich vein of form.
The do-or-die status of the encounter coupled with the history-rich rivalry of both clubs sees an immense crowd expected.
With the regular season fixtures between the two teams generating crowds of approximately 12,000 and 10,000 respectively, the hub of football in Victoria over the weekend will no doubt be at Olympic Village.
From a selection perspective South Melbourne coach John Anastasiadis has practically a full squad to choose from. Con Blatsis had an injury cloud over him through the week after picking up a knock in the game against Gully but looks to have recovered sufficiently enough to take his place in the South starting line-up.
Against Gully South were the superior team but failed to break down one of the league’s most consistently resilient defences and after having two chances from the spot to book their place in the Final, it is of vital importance that John Anastasiadis’s men put behind them the disappointment of not already making the Grand Final and simply focus on getting past the Bergers.
After gaining promotion from State League 1 last season, Heidelberg has done a superb job in putting together a squad littered with NSL experience. The Bergers possess quality all over the park with South’s goal under considerable threat from players such as Bill Damianos, Nick Sabljak and Nick Marinos. Add to the mix the youthful enthusiasm and sheer talent of Brendan Beni and the Bergers posses a bevy of attacking talent.
The regular season encounters between the sides saw blanks drawn all around with two nil-all draws highlighting the respect and weary approach that both sides have for one another. However, with so much on the line and a Grand Final birth at stake, respect must go out the door with sheer determination, passion and will to win the likely decider come the end of the 90 minutes this Sunday.