Friday, 12 May 2006 2:28 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne returns to Bob Jane Stadium this Sunday looking to consolidate their position in the top 6 of the Vodafone Cup.
Their opponents, the Andrew Marth-coached Green Gully find themselves in unfamiliar territory, just outside the relegation zone having not won a game since their round six 2-1 triumph over the Fawnker-Whittlesea Stallions.
South Melbourne will be eager to avenge their cruel 2005 Vodafone Cup exit at the hands of Gully after two opportunities – during the penalty shoot-out – to advance to the Grand Final were squandered by John Anastasiadis’s men, who had dominated proceedings during regular time. Gully eventually progressed and also went on to win the championship.
Gully have recently been active in the transfer market, looking to ease the loss of veteran forwards Nick Tsaltas and Nick Lazarevski who have moved to Altona Phoenix and Bulleen Zebras respectively. Gully have brought in young forwards Richard Cardozo (NSWPL), the younger brother of prolific NSL scorer Pablo Cardozo and Serkan Oksuz (Preston Lions) who has had NSL experience with the Melbourne Knights.
Cardozo scored his first goal for Gully during the last round, a well-taken delicate chip against the Altona Magic and will no doubt have to be closely contained by the South defence.
The core of the Green Gully side also remains extremely strong. Experienced players like Andy and Roddy Vargas, Lubo Lapsansky, Zoran Markovski, Dean Fak, Pasi Scwalger and Brendon Vassallo give the side a level of experience that few teams in the Vodafone Cup can claim.
Conversely, South have been decimated by injury in recent times and with the send-off of club Captain Vaughn Coveny last week against Frankston and the departure of Ivory Coast native Jonas Salley to the A-League, coach John Anastasiadis finds himself once again with a threadbare squad.
Trinidad and Tobago import Kevin Nelson will no doubt be drafted straight back into the starting-eleven to replace the suspended Coveny, giving Nelson a genuine chance to impress in front of the South faithful.
Defender Dino Djulbic is available after serving his suspension against Frankston with South also hoping that young winger Vasilios Natsioulas has recovered from a leg injury picked up two weeks ago against Oakleigh.
Young defenders James Stefanou and Sammy DeVito should be singled out for praise as both players have lifted admirably with the suspension and injury sustained to regular defenders Con Blatsis, Arthur Tsonis and Rama Tavsancioglu. Along with Tansel Baser, the South backline must continue to improve and remain tight if South are to position themselves well for a much-need home win against Gully.