Sunday, 25 June 2006 9:38 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
A refereeing blunder has cost South Melbourne maximum points against eternal rivals the Preston Lions.
After turning around a 1-nil deficit to be ahead 1-2, the referee appeared to completely miss an infringement on South custodian Dean Anastasiadis who had the ball ripped from his hands when attempting a long throw. The ball fell to youngster Marinos Gasparis who tucked into an empty net to level the contest at 2-2.
With Brazilian Fernando Moraes in Greece to finalise his transfer to first division club Aegaleo and young midfielder Vasilios Natsioulas missing with a hamstring injury sustained during training yesterday, South Melbourne coach John Anastasiadis was forced into a re-structure of his starting-eleven.
Veteran custodian Dean Anastasiadis started in goal with South playing a back three which consisted of giant defender Dino Djulbic in the centre of defence with fellow youngsters Rama Tavsancioglu and Sammy DeVito lining up on the right and left side of the defensive trio respectively.
In the centre of the park the energetic George Tzirtis began in a defensive midfield role with Scot MacNicol given full freedom to attack from the centre of the park in a more advanced role. On the right flank Gianni DeNittis replaced the injured Vasilios Natsioulas whilst Tansel Baser began the game on the left side of midfield. Andreas Oliveira was given a free roaming role in behind the central strike pairing in what appeared to be a direct replacement for the absent Moraes. Up front inspirational skipper Vaughn Coveny partnered the enigmatic Kevin Nelson.
The match started with both sides easing into the contest but it was Preston who created the first genuine opening of the game which ultimately lead to their goal. The Lions broke well down the right capitalizing on an out-of-position South defence. The subsequent 6th minute cross was inch perfect and found the late run of ex-Bulleen striker Nick Lazarevski who headed into an empty net on the back-post.
Three minutes later and South were nearly two behind when Blaze Georgioski was released in behind the South defence down the left. Georgioski made his way towards goal but Anastasiadis was excellent in spreading himself and making it impossible for Georgioski to score with the eventual shot smothered out for a corner.
South’s first clear opening arrived in the 21st minute after a cross from the left saw Coveny challenge Preston custodian Sava Ozdemir for the ball. The ball fell loose to Nelson who managed a decent effort on target that was cleared off the line; however, the ball once again fell to Nelson who unfortunately failed with his follow-up effort, blazing it over the crossbar.
South had now settled into the contest and began dominating possession with their quality passing eventually rewarded with an exquisitely taken goal by Coveny.
Oliveira had found some space down the right and played in a superb 33rd minute cross. Such was the quality of the ball that it bounced just in front of Coveny completely drawing keeper Ozdemir who found himself out of position. Coveny did well to keep his cool and send a looping header over Ozdemir and into the back of the net with two Lions defenders desperately trying to get to the ball but failing to do so.
The 2nd half had barely begun when South went ahead. A ball from the right into the heart of the Preston box saw referee Hakan Anaz spot an infringement on Kevin Nelson with Anaz immediately pointing to the spot. Perhaps Anaz was a little too keen as the ball was scrambled into the back of the net moments after the whistle was blown.
That said, up-stepped the diminutive Oliveira who had no trouble in sending Ozdemir in the opposite direction, comfortably slotting in the bottom right hand corner and giving South a deserved 1-2 advantage in the 46th minute.
South continued to dominate possession but clear openings were few and far between for both sides. Preston however should’ve leveled in the 59th minute after ex-South midfielder Steven Pace was played in with his back to goal near the South goalmouth, Pace kept his head and squared to the back-post where an unmarked and incoming Lions player failed to capitalize on the golden chance, only managing to sky over with the goal at his mercy.
The match was then turned on its head in the 79th minute after a Preston corner was comfortably gloved by Anastasiadis. With the South box crowded Anastasiadis spotted Coveny in a good position in South’s attacking half. Anastasiadis proceeded to attempt to throw the ball long only for it to be handled out of his hands with referee Anaz looking towards the centre of the pitch, the ball fell advantageously to the ever-alert Gasparis who had no problems tucking into an empty net.
Practically all the South Melbourne players converged on Anaz pleading their case. Anaz sensed a possible mistake and consulted with his Assistance Referee who claimed to have seen no infringement.
In light of the recent refereeing gaffe of Graham Poll at the World Cup, how such a clear infringement, which was spotted by everyone in attendance, sifted through the eyes of the Centre Referee and the Assistant Referee was definitely puzzling.
To the visitors credit they searched for a winner with Oliveira intelligently playing in Coveny in the 90th minute. Coveny broke free of the Preston defence and checked back, completely wrong-footing his marker with his subsequent curling shot that seemed destined for the bottom right corner saved brilliantly by Ozdemir with the Assistant Referee missing the contact and signaling a goal kick.