Monday, 13 February 2006 1:34 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne has continued its positive start to the 2006 Vodafone Cup with a hard fought 1-0 win against the Fawkner/Whittlesea Blues.
In front of approximately 2000-2500 spectators, South took the points after a superb 76th minute header from debutant Kevin Nelson.
South Coach John Anastasiadis kept faith with the lineup that produced a solid display last week against Heidelberg with the only change being the inclusion of much heralded signing Nelson to lead the line in place of Peter Koutsoupias.
The rest of the starting eleven read as follows. Veteran custodian Dean Anastasiadis took his place in between the sticks with the central defensive pairing seeing Con Blatsis and Arthur Tsonis resume their formidable partnership. Ivory Coast native Jonas Salley continued in the right-back role with Rama Tavsancioglu playing on the left.
In the centre of the park Arthur Tsirtsakis and Tansel Baser were deployed in defensive midfield roles with Evan Karavitis used in a right midfield role. Scot MacNicol and Brazilian Fernando Moraes took up drifting roles on the left and right hand side of attack with the instruction to drop back into midfield when needed whereas Nelson was deployed as an out-and-out striker.
South dominated possession in the first half but failed to create any real genuine chances. Fawkner seemed content to soak up the pressure in the hope that a counter attack could be finished off by an accomplished attack consisting of the likes of Mark Tsiorlas, John Sapazovski and player-coach John Markovski.
South’s first chance arrived in the 4th minute after a quality ball from the right lead to an intense scramble in the Fawkner box with the Blues struggling to clear for a corner.
Fawkner then showed their attacking threat with two quality strikes, the first in the 18th minute which sailed narrowly wide and the 2nd, a 20 yard “pot-shot” from Markovski seeing the alert Anastasiadis glove easily.
A half chance fell to Tsonis in the 22nd minute after good work down the right by Karavitis saw the Fawkner defence struggle to deal with his cross with the ball eventually falling to Tsonis who’s attempted left-foot volleyed-strike sailed wide.
South’s best chance of the first half arrived courtesy of the brilliant work of Fernando who managed to glide past a couple of Fawkner defenders down the right and kept his composure to produce a quality cutback to Nelson in the heart of the Fawkner area. Unfortunately for South, Nelson’s first touch was heavy with the Blues’ defence recovering in time to smother his eventual 29th minute attempt.
South started far more brightly in the second half. Coach Anastasiadis had no doubt requested that his players lift their tempo and output with the players immediately responding.
Fernando was starting to get more involved and tested Fawkner keeper Tilovksi in the 49th minute with a free kick from just outside the Fawkner box.
Five minutes later the Brazilian was starting to come alive, working some space for himself with his superb footwork and producing a quality strike that deflected of a Fawkner defender and viciously dipped just over Tilovski’s crossbar.
Fernando again was at the heart of South’s first golden opportunity after his deft 56th minute touch played in Blatsis down the left who with only Tilovski to beat, managed to get his side-footed effort on target with the Fawkner custodian brilliantly reacting to gather in the ball.
South coach Anastasiadis then made a game-breaking substitution. On came the nippy and hardworking George Tzirtis in the place of Arthur Tsirtsakis and immediately South started to improve its general midfield dominance.
Tzirtis was at the end of South’s next genuine attack after Fernando again was the provider, finding Tzirtis just outside the box in a shooting position with the ex-Frankston midfielder producing a decent 66th minute strike that sailed just wide with Tilovski at full stretch.
Seventy minutes in and South should’ve gone ahead after brilliant link-up play between Baser and Tzirtis in the centre of the park saw the latter play through Nelson with only Tilovski to beat. The South faithful held their breath as Nelson proceeded to round Tilovski, however, unfortunately for the home side Nelson’s touch was a slightly heavy with the Trinidad and Tobago native creating a difficult angle for himself that the scurrying Fawkner defence eventually managed to clear off the line, much to the anger of a stream of South players who had queued in the heart of the Fawkner box expecting a cut-back.
Brazilian Fernando seemed hell-bent on terrorizing the Fawkner defence and was at it again after 73 minutes when his superb work down the left flank saw him skin two defenders and enter the box. Fernando again delivered a brilliant cutback that saw Tilovski save a rocket of a strike onto the crossbar with the ball falling to South player on the back post who could only head into the side-netting.
South’s second half dominance was finally rewarded after 76 minutes when a pin-point cross from the right by MacNicol was met by Nelson who produced a diagonal header of the highest order, giving Tilovski no chance and setting the South faithful alight.
South lowered their tempo for the remainder of the encounter looking to hang onto their well deserved lead and hence build on their strong start to the season.
However, the visitors nearly made the home side pay when with practically the last attack of the game Sapazovski found some space down the right and produced a quality cutback to Siljanoski who with enough space to shoot and only a few yards out only managed to produce a mis-kick.
At the conclusion of the game the South players showed their appreciation for the non-stop chanting produced by the Clarendon Corner, running to the infamous spot and joining in with the group in exchanging a series of “Oles”.