Sunday, 6 August 2006 11:44 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne have suffered the wrath the world game’s beauty, absolutely tearing to shreds a very disappointing Oakleigh Cannons outfit who through the brilliant keeping of Stuart Webster and an expertly taken free-kick from ex-South player Con Boutsianis, still managed to leave Bob Jane Stadium with maximum points.
The match was turned on its head after 18 minutes after Antun Kovacic committed one of the most disgraceful and potentially career-threatening tackles seen in the Vodafone Cup this season. Lunging two footed into South youngster Vasilios Natsioulas, the South winger dropped to the ground and clutched his leg in pain. Referee Lewis Giuseffi had no choice but to red-card Kovacic who will no doubt receive a severe suspension for his actions.
Natsioulas was escorted to the hospital immediately and early reports indicate that he has a severe and deep gash on his thigh, yet no bones have been broken.
George Tzirtis missed the game succumbing to a bout of flu, whilst colossal defender Con Blatsis was deemed fit and took his position in the starting eleven.
Coach John Anastasiadis sent out the team as follows. Veteran custodian Dean Anastasiadis began in goal with a central defensive pairing of Dino Djulbic and Con Blatsis in front of him. Youngsters Sammy DeVito and Rama Tavsancioglu played in the left and right-back roles respectively. In the centre of the park, South went for a three man central midfield with Scot MacNicol, Tansel Baser and Antonio Naglieri whilst up front, the three pronged attack consisted of Vasilios Natsioulas on the right, Brazilian Fernando Moraes on the left and Andreas Oliveira as the central striker.
The Cannons had the first chance of the encounter after only 4 minutes when a 20 yard effort was hit decently, forcing Anastasiadis to collect the ball at the second attempt after he initially parried the effort.
Oakleigh then created a genuine opening after some good work down the left flank saw a grounded square ball find the diminutive Juan Nilo with his back to goal 6 or so yards out. Nilo tried to cheekily back-heel the ball home but the alert Anastasiadis read the situation well, went down quickly and gloved safely.
From Nilo’s effort onwards South stamped their authority on the game. After 13 minutes, Baser nearly scored a contender for goal of the season after unleashing a 25 yard pile-driver that had Oakleigh custodian Stuart Webster well beaten, only to see his shot “cannon” off Webster’s right upright.
Then in the 18th minute Antun Kovacic lunged two-footed in Natsioulas. A horrendous challenge that will no doubt haunt the defender for the rest of his footballing career. Natsioulas immediately went to the deck in significant pain with a mini-melee ensuing after the South players, lead by Con Blatsis, showed their disgust towards their Oakleigh counterparts and in particular Kovacic. Youngster Nick Curtis was brought on to replace Natsioulas.
In the 23rd minute South had a corner from the right that found Baser who tried to fashion a volley but didn’t cleanly connect. Nevertheless his effort was on target and forced Webster into an uncomfortable save down to his left.
After 31 minutes South nearly took the lead after good interplay between Oliveira and Naglieri on the edge of the Oakleigh area saw the latter unleash a quality half-volleyed effort that saw Webster misjudge the ball and nearly see it roll under him and into the net. Unfortunately for South the ball trickled just past the post.
The second half began in the same spirit as the first. South continued to dominate with referee Giuseffi missing a clear and intentional elbow from another ex-South player George Goutzioulis on Moraes. One had to question the intention of the Cannons. A team with a 12 point gap atop the Vodafone Cup standings yet playing in an aggressive and almost thuggish manner with quality football nowhere near in sight.
South had a half chance after 52 minutes when a corner from the left to the near post was met by a South player who saw his headed effort, which looked to be an attempted flick-on, bobble onto the roof of the net.
Another chance was created in the 63rd minute after a quality ball from the right flank saw Baser’s glancing header trickle narrowly wide.
Baser was at it again two minutes later after he was played through in-behind the Oakleigh defence down the left flank. The ex-Trabzonspor player kept his composure and played a quality low square ball to Oliveira who controlled and produced a decent strike that appeared to strike the hand of an Oakleigh player right on the goal-line with referee Giuseffi choosing to wave play on.
South were then denied by the heroics of Webster after a 25 yard pile-driving effort from Moraes, who had the ball laid off to him from a free kick, was curling away from the Oakleigh custodian who somehow managed to get a fingertip on the effort at full stretch and divert it for a corner.
The home side were dealt the harshest of blows on 75 minutes after Giuseffi gave a weak foul 25 or so yards out. Ex-South coach and current Oakleigh coach Stuart Munro sent on Con Boutsianis to take the effort. With his first touch of the ball, Boutsianis continued his long run of successfully beating Dean Anastasiadis from set pieces, producing a stunning effort that dipped viciously, leaving Anastasiadis stranded to his spot after being deceived by the dip of the ball.
South were now desperate to get something out of the game and lifted a gear. They should’ve equalized on 83 minutes when a quality ball from the left by Moraes was flicked on towards the back post where Baser had made an intelligent run. Baser lunged and from 2 yards out was denied by Webster who flung himself at the ball and somehow managed to keep it out.
From the resulting corner South connected with a header destined for the top right top corner only for an Oakleigh defender at full stretch managing to head the ball out. The resulting follow-up effort was again blocked by the sea of Oakleigh bodies who appeared to have set up camp on South’s goal line.
A minute later and South again saw an effort cleared off the line. The home side was exposing the lack of height of Webster by pumping deep crosses near the 6 yard box and in the 84th minute, Webster failed to get a fist on a South cross with the ball falling to a South player who again produced a decent effort only to see it fortuitously blocked by a scrambling Oakleigh player.
Deep into stoppage time South nearly conceded a second goal after committing practically the whole side forward in search of the leveler. As a result, Fijian international Esala Masi found some space and unleashed a quality right-footed effort from just outside the box that Anastasiadis did superbly well to save, diving to his left.
Giueseffi blew the final whistle and even though the South players were gutted by the result, they can hold their heads high knowing that going into the finals, they have significantly outplayed and asked some serious questions of the runaway leaders of the competition. Oakleigh have been put on notice.