Monday, 27 February 2006 5:01 PM
By George Kouroumalis
South Melbourne yesterday avenged the demons of one week ago at Kingston to capture an unthinkable last minute win against old foe Preston Lions in front of in excess of 2000 people at Bob Jane Stadium.
Despite the members only restriction placed upon fans of both sides, the atmosphere inside the stadium was electric, with South fans showing colour and excitement of the upcoming derby.
South went into the game with a changed lineup, where Con Blatsis was ruled out through injury and pocket rocket Peter Koutsoupias being dropped by coach John Anastasiadis.
Replacing them was George Tzirtis and young striker Gianni De Nittis, who was looking to assert himself at this level, as well as provide adequate support to Trinidad and Tobago international Kevin Nelson.
Fan favourite Billy Natsioulas also made his comeback to the senior side after a long struggle with illness, starting on the bench.
The first half saw a fairly scrappy game of football take place, with perhaps the nerves associated with a derby match affecting the players of both teams.
It wasn’t until midway through the half where the Moraes and the South midfield began to control the game.
The 35th minute provided the game with the first genuine chance, where the above mentioned Moraes having his attempt saved by Preston keeper Gruevski.
As it looked almost certain that the sides would go into the half time break tied, Preston managed to score only minutes before the interval.
Preston midfielder Pece Silveski cross seemed to have caused confusion in the South defense with international sensation Jonas Salley putting the ball into his own net.
This sent the small pocket of Preston fans into the ground into raptures as another unlikely victory at Bob Jane Stadium was on the cards.
The second half however started in a similar manner to the first half with South dominating possession and Preston being content to sit back and repel any attack that came their way.
In the 59th minute, Billy Natsioulas was given a chance to inject some pace and life into the South lineup replacing Evan Karavitis on the right.
With Natsioulas, Baser and Moraes controlling the game, South were bombarding the Preston area in search for a much needed equaliser.
It wasn’t until the 64th minute that South was given a lifeline by referee Damir Basic, who pointed to the penalty spot after George Tzirtis was brought down in the area by Preston defender Harris Vrbovac.
Moraes then had the poise and class to send the Preston keeper the wrong way and get his side back to level terms.
As a draw looked almost certain ex-South player Anthony Magnacca took it on himself to grab all three points from his old club, with his 91st minute shot only going centimeters wide of the target.
From the restart South went up the field and an inviting ball fell for youngster Gianni De Nittis just outside the area.
De Nittis calmly hit a long drive wide of keeper Gruevski and into the back of the net sending the blue and white army and the boys in the Clarendon Corner into frenzy as the goal secured victory against its old foe.
Two minutes later though Preston had the last chance to grab something from the game, with midfielder and another ex-South player in Yianni Galanos hitting a shot close once again just wide of the target.
From the resulting restart the game was over with South managing to hold onto an amazing victory.
In winning the contest South Melbourne FC also managed to claim the inaugural “Harmony Cup” played between the sides.
Both teams now have a two week break as the Victorian State Team travels China.
South Melbourne FC 2 (Moraes, De Nittis)
Preston Lions FC 1 (Salley OG)
Crowd: Approx 2000