Sunday, 22 January 2006 11:33 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne has progressed to the semi final stage of the Crazy John’s cup after a patchy 3-2 win against fellow VPL side the Bulleen Zebras.
An 89th minute strike from Brazilian Fernando Moraes saved the home side’s blushes after South had cruised to a comfortable 2-0 lead by the half thanks to outstanding finishes from Gianni DeNittis and Kevin Nelson.
However, the Michael Michalakopoulos coached Zebras hit back midway through the 2nd half and in quick succession thanks to an unmarked header from Zebras captain Stelios Drakos and an own goal from South’s Tansel Baser leveled the tie.
It took a quality 89th minute back post cross from Baser that was brilliantly cut back by substitute Peter Koutsoupias into the path of Moraes to slam home from 6 yards out to give South the win.
South Coach John Anastasiadis sent out a strong lineup making two changes from his starting eleven against Springvale. VPL goalkeeper of 2005 Dean Anastasiadis replaced Con Dimitropoulos whilst rising youngster Gianni DeNittis started up front replacing midfielder George Tzirtis.
Elsewhere, Arthur Tsonis partnered Ivory Coast defender Jonas Salley in the centre of defence with youngsters Evan Karavitis and Lester Abalos taking up the right and left back positions respectively. The midfield quartet consisted of Tansel Baser in a defensive role with Scot MacNicol and Arthur Tsirtsakis patrolling the flanks whilst Brazilian Fernando Moraes was given licence to unleash his attacking brilliance. Up front, elegant youngster Gianni DeNittis partnered the exciting Trinidad and Tobago native Kevin Nelson.
South dominated the first half, rarely shifting into top gear as the hot weather meant that both teams decided to gently knock the ball around as opposed to playing at top pace.
With only a minute gone Moraes unleashed a decent strike from outside the box that skimmed narrowly wide.
Bulleen however hit back immediately when a 3rd minute angled drive saw Anastasiadis surprised by the effort with the South keeper managing to handle the ball onto his left upright and then eventually collect.
South’s first good opening arrived in the 17th minute after a good cross from the right flank by Tsirtsakis found Nelson all alone in the heart of the Bulleen penalty area. Unfortunately for South, Nelson’s first time shot was blazed well over.
Two minutes later South went ahead after the ever alert DeNittis pounced on searching through ball, racing away from his marker and calmly beating Bulleen keeper Torcaso with a low strike under his body.
In the 26th minute South doubled their advantage with a wonder strike from Nelson. Nelson was released down the left and saw Torcaso slightly off his line. The South striker took a touch and then proceeded to lob the Bulleen custodian with a class strike off his laces. Torcaso had no chance with the ball taking a bounce and settling in the far right bottom corner.
In the 2nd half South appeared to be cruising with both sides appearing to lack desire.
Moraes had a decent shot on the turn in the 48th minute that sailed just wide, whilst Bulleen threatened with a quality 66th minute cross from the left that was nodded on across the face of goal, narrowly missing the target.
Then out of nowhere, Bulleen pulled one back after South poorly defended a 73rd minute corner, leaving Bulleen captain Stelios Drakos 6 yards out on the back post and all alone to easily head past a stranded Anastasiadis.
Three minutes later and it was game on after Bulleen broke down the right hand flank and sent in a venomous cross into the heart of the South area. Unfortunately for South, Baser stuck his foot out and with the quality of the cross only requiring a touch in the right direction; the South defensive midfielder had pulled Bulleen level, sticking his foot out and leaving Anastasiadis helpless.
Bulleen nearly snatched the lead in the 80th minute after a 20-yard free kick was well held by Anastasiadis.
The match was destined for a penalty shoot-out (as dictated by the laws of the Cup) when Baser received a MacNicol throw in, sent a back post cross into the Bulleen box that was expertly laid back by substitute Peter Koutsoupias into the oncoming path of Moraes who from 6 yards out made no mistake.