Saturday, 11 March 2006 1:35 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne has come away with a disappointing 1-1 draw away to Essendon after a free-flowing and pulsating encounter at the Veneto Club saw the visitors miss a host of chances whilst appearing extremely vulnerable on the counter.
On loan from Perth Glory, Solomon Islands international Henry Fa’Arodo scored a brilliant individual goal in the 21st minute totally against the run of play after South had played its best football of the season in the first 20 minutes.
South winger George Tzirtis managed to level just after the break, but extended periods of pressure from South could not yield a decisive goal with the Royals unlucky not to score themselves on a couple of occasions.
Club captain Vaughn Coveny returned after his A-League stint, bolstering the South frontline and commencing his eagerly anticipated partnership with Kevin Nelson.
The South starting eleven read as follows, Con Dimitropoulos started in goal after veteran custodian Dean Anastasiadis succumbed to an arm injury. The central defensive pairing saw Arthur Tsonis link-up with Ivory Coast native Jonas Salley with Rama Tavsancioglu and Vasilios Natsioulas playing in the left and right wingback positions respectively. In the centre of the park Scot MacNicol and Tansel Baser played in the attacking and defensive midfield positions whilst George Tzirtis and Fernando Moraes were deployed on the left and right flanks. Up-front Trinidad and Tobago import Kevin Nelson partnered South Captain and Kiwi international Vaughn Coveny.
South began the game playing superb free-flowing football and it wasn’t long before the chances started to arrive. In the 4th minute Coveny’s shot from just outside the box was easily saved by the Essendon keeper.
Four minutes later and a superb through ball by Baser was latched onto by Nelson who took a touch and unleashed a powerful drive that sailed narrowly wide.
Then in the 10th minute some excellent work down the left flank saw MacNicol produce a quality back-post cross that for a few inches would’ve found Nelson all alone and unmarked. At full stretch Nelson failed to get his boot onto it.
South’s opening 20 minute avalanche continued, this time Brazilian Moraes unleashed a thunderous 14th minute drive that the Royals’ keeper did well to parry. Fernando was at it again in the 20th minute after a powerful and swerving strike couldn’t be held by the keeper. The ball fell to Nelson who from a tight angle on the right whipped the ball across the face of goal, the ball was quickly played back into the heart of the Royal’s defence seeing an unmarked Moraes, from 5 yeards out, failing to direct his header either side of the keeper with the Essendon keeper gloving thankfully when he should’ve been retrieving the ball from the back of the net.
South paid dearly for their lack of productivity in front of goal when Fa’Arodo turned Salley inside out, threw a shot-fake which drew Dimitropoulos out of his goal area and left the Soloman Islands international with an empty net to power the ball into. Fa’Arodo made no mistake with his 21st minute strike immediately deflating South’s confidence.
South nearly leveled in the 33rd minute after a Moraes free kick from the left-hand side fell to Salley on the back-post who rushed his strike and blazed over.
Fa’Arodo however continued to be Essendon’s main attacking threat, this time the diminutive striker used his immense speed to create some space for himself down the left, producing a quality ball into the heart of the South area that found an unmarked team-mate who fortunately for the visitors, failed to make decent contact with his glancing header with the ball trickling just wide.
South best chance of the half came in injury time after a free kick from the right by Moraes expertly picked out an unmarked Coveny 8 yards out. The Kiwi international rose and sent an angled header crashing against the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.
The visitors needed to respond early in the 2nd half and managed to do so via George Tzirtis. The super fit midfield/winger timed his run superbly, latching onto a 49th minute ball from the right that evaded the Essendon defence and fell to the ex-Frankston player who one-on-one with the Royals’ keeper, calmly slotted through the keeper’s legs to level proceedings.
Two minutes later and South nearly went ahead after a quality ball from the left by Moraes found Coveny’s deep run down the right side of the Essendon box with the South skipper sending his volleyed effort narrowly wide.
Essendon had been playing on the counter all night and wasted two guilt edge chances in the 58th minute. First a glorious run down the right saw an Essendon player nutmeg Tzirtis and enter the box in a dangerous crossing position, only to see his subsequent low cross pass through a sea of legs with the ball eventually being scrambled off the line by the South defence only for the assistant referee to flag offside. A moment later an Essendon attack down the left saw a great cross find an unmarked Royals’ player 6 yards out with the subsequent header straight at Dimitropoulos who no doubt breathed a sigh of relief.
In the 65th minute Fa’Arodo once again caused problems for South after cutting in from the right and producing a quality strike that Dimitropoulos did well to parry away.
South could’ve snatched all three points in the 79th minute when the once again excellent Moraes slotted Nelson in down the left only to see Nelson’s angled drive fail to test the keeper.
Essendon almost took maximum points 8 minutes from time after a low cross from the right was flicked on towards goal with Dimitropoulos showing excellent reflexes to stick an arm out and deflect away.