Sunday, 2 April 2006 12:23 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne have continued their worrying form slump going down 3-1 to a determined Altona Magic outfit after Vaughn Coveny had put the visitors ahead with a 14th minute strike only to see referee Jim Ouliaris award a speculative penalty on the stroke of half time, allowing for Sash Becvinovski to equalize.
In the 2nd half Altona capitalized on a strong tailwind with Becvinovski fortunate to see his 75th minute strike rattle off the crossbar and onto Dean Anastastasiadis’s back with the ball eventually trickling over the line, whilst Igor Arsovski wrapped things up in the 84th minute with a close range effort.
With injury and form forcing Coach John Anastasiadis’s hand this week, a couple of personnel changes and positional adjustments were made to the starting lineup.
Trinidad and Tobago native Kevin Nelson started on the bench with the season-ending knee injury suffered by Arthur Tsonis seeing young defender James Stefanou making his first full debut for the club. Postionally, Tansel Baser was moved to a central defensive role with Ivory Coast defender Jonas Salley playing in defensive midfield. Finally, young left back Sammy DeVito also made a comeback to senior action.
South’s starting 11 read as follows, Dean Anastasiadis in goal, a central defensive pairing of Tansel Baser and James Stefanou with Rama Tavsancioglu and Sammy DeVito playing the right and left back positions.
In the centre of the park, Jonas Salley played in a defensive midfield role with Scot MacNicol the more attack-minded midfielder. On the flanks Vasilios Natsioulas and George Tzirtis played on the right and left respectively with Brazilian Fernando Moraes having a free roaming attacking role in behind Captain Vaughn Coveny who led the line up front.
The Magic started brightly creating a quality opening after only 2 minutes when an angled strike from the right-hand side of the box was well saved down low by Anastasiadis.
Then in the 6th minute Altona should’ve gone ahead after a superb cross down the left flank was met with a firm header 8 or so yards out. Anastasiadis did well to get a glove on the attempt and was somewhat fortunate to see the ball balloon up and onto his chest with the South custodian planted on his back.
A minute later South produced a counter attack with George Tzirtis finding space down the left hand side of the Altona box with his subsequent angled-drive requiring a sharp save from Altona custodian Bojo Jevdjevic.
The frenetic pace continued when a 9th minute free kick from South was sent deep into the Altona box with Tavsancioglu meeting the ball around the penalty mark, sending a sharpish header crashing onto the crossbar.
Altona then broke on the counter finding some space down the right and sending a deep back-post cross that Tomi Razov failed to connect with after the striker managed to lose Stefanou, finding himself 8-10 yards out and in plenty of space.
Thirteen minutes in and South took the lead. A searching ball was caught by the wind wrong-footing Altona defender Levent Osman and allowing Coveny to out-muscle the ex-South defender and latch onto the opportunity. Faced with only Jevdjevic to beat, Coveny made no mistake, sending a powerful drive comfortably past the Altona custodian.
The goal seemed to have a calming effect on the pace of the game, chances stopped being created and South looked destined to head into the change rooms with a valuable advantage.
However, on the stroke of half time the game was turned on its head, a hopeful through-ball over the top by the Magic caught the South defence flat-footed allowing for an Altona player to get in-behind. Faced with only Anastasiadis to beat a chip was attempted with Anastasiadis seemingly trying to punch the ball away, the ball was destined to cross the line when South managed to scurry back and clear at the last moment, only for referee Ouliaris to point to the spot. Ouliaris must’ve ruled that Anastasiadis had somehow made contact with the player, but to the majority of the crowd, the incident seemed to be a genuine attempt to get the ball.
Altona leading marksman Sash Becvinovski stepped up and comfortably slotted past Anastasiadis, hitting his drive low and firmly into the bottom left corner, leveling the ledger and giving Altona the advantage with a large tailwind awaiting them in the second half.
The 2nd half was evenly balanced possession wise, however, Altona looked the more likely to score. A 63rd minute strike from just outside the box had Anastasiadis beaten with the veteran keeper saved by the left upright.
Then in the 72nd minute, a deep back-post cross from the left was sliced by the arriving Altona player, when a shot on target would’ve heavily tested Anastasiadis.
South should’ve gone ahead in the 74th minute after excellent work down the right by substitute Kevin Nelson saw the diminutive striker produce a superb back-post cross that left Coveny with the easiest of tap-ins from 2 or so yards. Coveny however seemed to underestimate his finish, sticking out a toe but with far too little power allowing for the desperate Jevdjevic to lunge at full stretch and smother.
Immediately after Coveny’s miss Altona made South pay with Becvinovski latching onto a cross from the left by Tomi Razov, Becvinovski saw his looping headed attempt cannon off the crossbar with Anastasiadis struggling at full stretch to get a glove onto the effort. As the South keeper was falling back the ball ricocheted off his back and trickled its way over the line sending the Magic ahead.
Altona then wrapped up proceedings in the 84th minute after a searching switch of play saw a desperate lunging attempt by Tavsancioglu fail narrowly, allowing for Altona to break into the South box down the left flank with the subsequent cutback being comfortably finished by Igor Arsovski who from 6 yards out couldn’t miss.