Tuesday, 15 August 2006 12:16 AM
By George Kouroumalis
The Bulleen Zebras have provided the great escape for everyone to see at the Veneto Club, scoring with one of the rare strikes on target in the 93rd minute, to grab a share of the points against South Melbourne, who had gained the advantage after a 33rd minute Fernando De Moraes penalty.
South made one change to the starting lineup that fell victim to a physical Oakleigh Cannons side last week, with injury ruling out explosive midfielder Vasilios Natsioulas.
Natsioulas was replaced by youngster Nick Curtis, who in his many appearances this season has shown that he is more than capable at this level and is without a doubt one of the future stars of the Vodafone Cup.
The lineup once again included veteran Dean Anastasiadis in goals, who was protected by a strong central defensive pairing of Con Blatsis and Dino Djulbic in the space in front of him.
As expected Sam DeVito and Ramazan Tavsancioglu were played in the left and right fullback roles, while coach John Anastasiadis continued with a Scot MacNicol, Antonio Naglieri and Tansel Baser in the centre of the park after their fantastic display against the Cannons last week.
Andreas Oliviera was once again the lone striker up front, while youngster Nick Curtis and Brazilian maestro Fernando De Moraes patrolled the right and left hand sides of midfield respectively.
With a strong lineup in place, South pushed forward from the outset when a bursting run by Tavsancioglu exposed the Bulleen defence, allowed the hard working defender to launch a dangerous cross into the path of Oliviera, who hit a low volley onto the target.
To the dismay and disbelief of the large traveling contingent the shot was magnificently saved and turned away for a corner.
South continued to pile on the pressure and could have had the first goal of the match on numerous occasions in the first half an hour, but through poor finishing by Oliviera and Moraes they could not stike the killer blow.
In the 33rd minute, South were rewarded for their dominance when an innocuous ball was fumbled horribly by the Zebra keeper in Tomas Kovar, allowing Baser to pounce and head into an open net.
In desperation Kovar tripped Baser with an oustretched arm, giving the referee no choice but to point to the penalty spot, giving the blues an opportunity to take the advantage.
Fernando De Moraes then stepped up and calmly slotted the penalty to the left hand side of the keeper into the back of the net, sending a jubilant Blue and White army into celebration mode.
South were not content with only being a goal ahead and in the 34th minute, explosive fullback Tavsancioglu launched a hopeful volleyed effort from 40 yards out, only for the ball to dip late and just miss the wide open net.
In the dying minutes of the half both Oliviera and Baser were gifted with opportunities just outside the area, but unfortunately struck their well hit attempts well wide of the upright, ensuring South would go into the halftime break with a solitary goal advantage.
The second half provided very little genuine scoring opportunities for both sides, with the first real chance coming in the 65th minute after a darting MacNicol run and ball cut open the Zebra defence finding Oliviera in acres of space, only for the diminutive striker to miss the target once again.
As the Zebra’s became increasingly frustrated with the solid South defence and the stellar performance of defensive duo, Blatsis and Djulbic, they found themselves in the first bit of space for the evening, when Adam Fadljevic launched his drive from just outside the area to the left of the upright.
The 80th minute should have seen the South Melbourne side score the second and match winning goal after a sublime Tansel Baser header from a corner was saved off the line and launched to safety for the Bulleen Zebras.
As South looked to shut down the game and secure all three points, one final foray forward in the 92nd minute by the away side nearly was rewarded, when a world class Gianni De Nittis volley was saved and parried clear amazingly by an acrobatic keeper Kovar.
From the resulting counter attack, Bulleen did the unthinkable and managed to equalize after a misunderstanding from ever reliable keeper Dean Anastasiadis allowed the ball to evade the veterans grasp and fall into the path of the opportunistic Michael Mazzini, who buried the Zebra’s first genuine goal scoring chance into the net to the disbelief of everyone at the ground.
With the drawn match, South drop into fourth place of the Vodafone Cup standings, two points behind the Heidelberg Warriors and one point behind Altona, with two home and away games left to complete the season.
This includes next week’s match against the bottom placed Frankston Pines at Bob Jane Stadium.
Kick off for this important encounter is at 6pm and all South fans are encouraged to come along and support the side in their endeavors to reach that elusive top two position.
Bulleen Zebras : 1
South Melbourne FC : 1
Crowd : Approx 800 @ Veneto Club