Monday, 3 July 2006 2:29 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne has once again been denied by a resilient Essendon Royals outfit that fought from a goal down to eventually leave Bob Jane Stadium with a 1-all draw and valuable point.
South went ahead in the 4th minute through Andreas Oliveira only for Essendon to equalize just before half time with an expertly taken free kick.
Vasilios Natsioulas was again absent through injury but midfielder Antonio Naglieri made his return to the substitutes bench after a long layoff.
Coach John Anastasiadis sent South out as follows. Dean Anastasiadis lined up in between the uprights with a defensive quartet consisting of central pairing Dino Djulbic and James Stefanou as well as Rama Tavsancioglu and Sammy DeVito in right and left-back roles. Midfield dynamo George Tzirtis took up the defensive midfield duties with Scot MacNicol continuing in a more advance attacking role. Out wide Tansel Baser played on the left with Andreas Oliveira on the right with Trinidad and Tobago native Kevin Nelson resuming his striking partnership with Captain Vaughn Coveny.
South started the match in a dominant matter, controlling the flow of the game and knocking the ball around well. It didn’t take long for the home side to open the scoring when superb work down the left edge of the Essendon box by Nelson, saw the South striker wriggle past a couple of defenders and square the ball for Oliveira who from 8 or so yards out sent low angled 4th minute drive comfortably past the Royals keeper and into the bottom right-hand corner.
South should’ve doubled their advantage in the 24th minute after Nelson was released with the Essendon keeper way off his line. Nelson slightly hesitated but still managed to chip the keeper with his effort cleared by a desperately scurrying Royals defender with barely a centimeter to spare.
South continued to dominate with Oliveira thrilling the small crowd with a quality 25 yard drive – after 30 minutes – that the Royal’s keeper did well to tip over.
Just before the break South gave away a free kick in an extremely dangerous position, 20 or so yards out and with very minimal angle. South set up their wall accordingly but the 43rd minute free kick was superbly struck, dipping over the wall and leaving Anastasiadis stranded with no chance.
In the second half South brought on Antonio Naglieri for James Stefanou, hoping to push for a winner.
To the disappointment of the home faithful South lost all momentum in the second half, appearing sluggish at times and allowing Essendon far too much of the ball.
Both teams rarely threatened with South seemingly happy to play out the rest of the game without any real emphasis.
The home side almost paid for their lackluster approach when an 82nd minute cross from the right by the Royals found an unmarked player at the top of the box. The Royals player hit a first time volley that was darting into the bottom right corner but for a magnificent outstretched save by Anastasiadis who somehow managed to get his fingertips to it and hence palm it around the post.
Essendon attacked again in the 86 minute, this time the cross was delivered from the left with the eventual diving-headed attempt going over the bar.
The match ended with South carving out a half chance. A deep cross from the right was nodded back into the heart of the Essendon box by Coveny with the ball falling to a slightly off-balanced Oliveira who couldn’t adjust his body positioning in time and hence blazed over.