Sunday, 7 May 2006 3:29 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne have missed an opportunity to close in on the top three after surrendering a 0-1 lead to eventually leave Monterey Reserve with a 1-1 draw.
Captain Vaughn Coveny had given the visitors the lead in the 50th minute only for Frankston to equalize 10 minutes later.
With Dino Djulbic suspended and both Vasilios Natsioulas and Jonas Salley failing to recover from injury, South were down to a threadbare squad.
Coach John Anastasiadis sent out the following line-up. Veteran Custodian Dean Anastasiadis lined up in goal with a 3-man central defensive pairing consisting of youngsters James Stefanou and Sammy DeVito as well as Tansel Baser.
In wingback roles youngster Nick Curtis got his first senior start on the right with George Tzirtis playing on the left.
In the centre of the park, Antonio Naglieri played in the defensive midfield role with Fernando Moraes and Scot MacNicol given more license to push forward. Up front, Captain Vaughn Coveny partnered Andreas Oliveira.
The Pines came out firing no doubt eager to prove a point against South and former players Naglieri and Oliveira who along with Djulbic recently migrated to the Albert Park-based club after only 5 games with the Pines.
In the opening minutes Frankston saw a chipped effort from just outside the South box hit the crossbar with Anastasiadis caught slightly off his line. It was an early warning for South who with an unfamiliar line-up took some time to settle in.
South gradually started to get on top, beginning to dominate possession and knocking the ball around intelligently.
Nineteen minutes in and South had a great chance to take the lead after Moraes had intercepted a ball down the left wing. The Brazilian narrowed in towards goal and made the Frankston keeper work, producing a decent angled drive.
Ten minutes later and burly Frankston forward Nick Waite miscued a half-chance from near the edge of the South box, pulling his shot wide of Anastasiadis’s left upright.
South then ended the half with two well worked chances. The first arrived after a quality cross from the right by MacNicol saw Coveny rise and produce a looping header that was destined for the top right corner. The Frankston keeper managed to scramble and get a palm onto the ball, deflecting it onto the crossbar with the ball eventually being cleared.
Then right on the stroke of half time Naglieri received a square ball from Moraes 25 or so yards out. The former Perth SC man attempted a curling effort with his right foot that unfortunately for South sailed narrowly wide with the Frankston keeper again scrambling for position.
South stepped up the tempo in the 2nd half wanting to get an early goal that would send them on their way to the much sought after 3 points.
Fourty-seven minutes in and neat link-up play between Oliveira and Moraes saw the latter produce a quality low strike from 25 yards that forced the Frankston custodian into a fingertip save around the right upright.
South deservedly took the lead on 50 minutes after a long ball over the top exposed the Frankston defence who failed to clear the ball with South skipper Coveny reading the play and getting his foot to the ball first, sending his effort from 5 or so yards out in off the left hand post.
With South seemingly in the box seat the game was turned on its head after goal-scorer Coveny was sent off for a second cautionable offence after 57 minutes. The South Captain was deemed to have deliberately handled the ball when looking to break away on a counter-attacking play down the right wing. The decision appeared harsh as whilst a handball, there was definitely a question mark as to whether or not the Kiwi international had intentionally handled the ball.
Frankston wasted no time in capitalizing on their numerical advantage after a set piece from the right in the 60th minute saw a clever header into the South box leave the visitors defence exposed. A desperate lunge by Tansel Baser saw the ball deflect and fall perfectly to a Frankston player, who from 6 yards out and faced with an empty net made no mistake.
South then received a lifeline in the 69th minute when Frankston were also reduced to 10 men. The referee’s assistant had flagged for a Frankston offside with the offending player ignoring the whistle and taking a strike on goal. The referee didn’t hesitate to hand the player his 2nd caution and hence eliminate the numerical advantage the Pines had enjoyed for 20 minutes.
South now sensed a genuine opportunity to snatch the three points and pushed hard for a winner. MacNicol almost created a glorious chance when his quality 76th minute cross from the right just eluded a lunging Oliveira at full stretch, who if he had managed to make slight contact would have most probably scored.
The game ended with South wasting two golden opportunities during stoppage-time. The first was squandered by Brazilian Moraes after he was superbly played in down the right flank, the Brazilian with not a defender in sight narrowed in towards goal and appeared to take his chance quite casually, attempting to fool the keeper into believing that he intended and angle drive, yet only managing to find the side netting – at the near post – with the goal at his mercy.
Then with practically the last kick of the game, ex-Frankston striker Oliveira found destiny staring at him directly in the face. A quality low cutback from the right found the diminutive South forward all alone 6 yards out. For some reason Oliveira chose to stop the ball, looking both left and right and hence allowing the Frankston defence to close in and block his eventual drive when a quick and sharp effort towards goal was required.