Saturday, 29 July 2006 12:49 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
A lone strike by youngster Vasilios Natsioulas coupled with a gritty and commanding team display has seen South Melbourne defeat Richmond 0-1, ending the five match unbeaten streak of Phil Stubbins’ men and in the process reclaiming second position in the Vodafone Cup standings.
Coach John Anastasiadis brought central midfielder Antonio Naglieri and winger Vasilios Natsioulas back into the starting lineup with youngster Andrew Bourakis back on the substitute’s bench and Con Blatsis absent from the squad altogether with perhaps last week’s run out against Sunshine tweaking his long term injury.
South lined up as follows. Veteran custodian Dean Anastasiadis began in goals with a central defensive pairing of Tansel Baser and Dino Djulbic marshalling the defence. In the right-back position Rama Tavsancioglu took up his familiar role with Sammy DeVito playing on the left.
In the centre of the park George Tzirtis played as the defensive midfield anchor whilst Antonio Naglieri tucked in slightly in front of him looking to pry open the defence with his range of precise passing. Out wide, Vasilios Natsioulas started on the right with Scot MacNicol on the left. Up-front Andreas Oliveira played almost a lone hand with Brazilian Fernando Moraes given a free-roaming attacking role.
The match started as a very tight affair. Both teams were giving little away with South slightly edging the possession as well as appearing more dangerous when going forward. A half chance fell to South after 10 minutes when a dangerously hit corner from the right by Natsioulas was unconvincingly cleared by the Richmond defence. The ball appeared to fall well just outside the box for a South player to strike first time, but slight hesitation saw the Richmond defence recover and clear.
South then went ahead after 19 minutes when MacNicol miscued a shot into the Richmond box. The ball fell to the feet of Natsioulas who with his back to goal attempted a sharp turn which deflected perfectly in his path allowing the South youngster to calmly toe-poke past stranded Richmond keeper Robert Simioni.
South continued to dictate the play, suffocating Richmond and preventing them from any sort of cohesive play whilst always looking to attack dangerously on the counter.
South survived a scared in the 48th minute after a Richmond corner saw Anastasiadis come out to punch the ball. His judgment was slightly off with the South keeper failing to make decent contact. The ball fell to the feet of a Richmond player – at the top of the box – who quickly attempted a shot but Anastasiadis had recovered superbly well to lunge at the feet of the strike and smother the effort.
Vasilios Natsioulas had been looking sharp all night and it was his burst down the right wing and subsequent low cutback after 51 minutes that set up Moraes, who swept past two challenges to work some space for a decent strike that was gloved somewhat unconvincingly by Simioni.
South then fashioned two chances in the space of six minutes that should’ve wrapped up proceedings.
The first arrived after superb work down the left bi-line by DeVito saw the young left back find himself in some space on the left hand side of Richmond box. DeVito produced a quality low cross that picked out the incoming MacNicol right on the edge of the 18 yard area. MacNicol connected well with his effort but saw it blocked as there was a sea of Richmond players in the box with MacNicol’s effort cannoning off one of the Richmond bodies.
Diminutive striker Andreas Oliveira should’ve iced the game on 69 minutes after another Natsioulas cross saw the Richmond defence make a horrendous error, missing the ball and allowing it to fall to Oliveira who from 12 or so yards out sliced his effort wide and over the crossbar when at the very least he should’ve hit the target.
Oliveira was in the thick of the action once again two minutes later when he latched onto a defence splitting ball, rounded the keeper and appeared to be slightly clipped, choosing to hold his ground and seeing the ball run out of play as he ran out of pitch when if he had chosen to fall he no doubt would’ve won a penalty.
Perhaps Oliveira was mindful of the fact that referee Phil Taverna had booked him earlier in the first half for supposed simulation and hence the ex-Perth SC player chose not to risk Taverna’s interpretation a second time.
South then shut up shop and closed the game out. Richmond tried to push forward but Anastasiadis had little to do with the whole team and especially Baser and Djulbic producing a solid defensive effort which eventually secured the visitors the much sought after three points.