Sunday, 10 September 2006 9:47 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
The South Melbourne triumphant spirit has returned in full force. Backed by a Gianni De Nittis double and a superb goal keeping display by veteran custodian Dean Anastasiadis, South Melbourne have reached the 2006 Vodafone Cup grand final, defeating the Altona Magic by 2 goals to one and now sit patiently with a week off to see who there opponents in the final will be.
Coach John Anastasidis sent out an almost exact replica of the team that took the field against Green Gully with the sole change seeing midfielder George Tzirtis come into the starting eleven in place of the injured Con Blatsis.
Tzirtis’s inclusion caused a minor reshuffle with Tansel Baser slotting into a central defensive role and Tzirtis starting on the left of midfield.
The South lineup read as follows. Dean Anastasiadis started in goals. Dino Djulbic and Tansel Baser formed the central defensive pairing with Rama Tavsancioglu and Sammy DeVito playing the right and left back roles respectively. In the centre of the park Antonio Naglieri played in the holding role with Scot MacNicol playing the attacking midfield role. On the flanks Brazilian maestro Fernano Moraes started on the right with George Tzirtis on the left. Up front youngster Gianni De Nittis partnered the diminutive Andreas Oliveira.
South started the encounter brightly when as early as the 2nd minute a free kick from the left made its way dangerously into the heart of the Altona box. Altona custodian Bojo Jevdjevic was all at sea, failing to punch away with the ball eventually falling to the back post, where a South player, not expecting the ball to make its way to him, hesitated with the ball deflecting just over.
South nearly went ahead in the 9th minute after some superb work down the right flank by Moraes saw the Brazilian produce a deep cross that fell to Tzirtis. Tzirtis cut the ball back to the oncoming MacNicol who from just outside the box, unleashed a rising rocket-like effort that narrowly whizzed over the crossbar.
A minute later and a superb ball down the right flank by Baser saw South away again. The eventual low cutback fell to Naglieri who from just inside the box scuffed his shot and failed to test Jevdjevic when his positioning really demanded he at least hit the target.
Altona had their first decent chance after 12 minutes when Pece Cergovski unleashed a decent strike that saw Anastasiadis down at full stretch with the ball trickling just past the upright.
With 25 minutes played South Melbourne almost succumbed to a shocking decision from the Assistant Referee. Two Altona players had strayed a good meter or so offside but the Assistant Referee kept his flag down. Altona broke down the left wing and played a quality ball to the South back post where an Altona player was waiting to smash home. Fortunately for South, DeVito read the situation superbly well and managed to get a foot to the ball lunging at full stretch.
Thirty minutes had been played when South missed a golden opportunity. Moraes had disposed an Altona player in the centre of the park. The Brazilian quickly broke forward and timed his pass perfectly, releasing De Nittis down the left hand side of the Altona box. De Nittis attempted an angled drove with his less preferred left foot with the ball failing to test Jevdjevic and rolling out for a goal kick.
South had a claim for a penalty after 38 minutes when Oliveira was bundled over after an Altona defender had clearly leant on him and put his hand on the striker’s back. Referee Hakan Anaz no doubt felt the contact was minimal and waved play on immediately.
The second half had only just begun when South wasted some superb work by Tavsancioglu. The super quick right back had managed to just keep the ball in down the right flank with his competing Altona player assuming the ball was going out. Tavsancioglu raced to the edge of the box and squared low for De Nittis who from the edge of the area and again on his less preferred left side, struck air.
South continued to apply the majority of the pressure. This time Oliveira produced a good strike from just outside the box in the 60th minute that Jevdjevic looked uncomfortable in punching away. Altona however hadn’t cleared the danger with South playing the ball along the edge of the area with Moraes eventually working some space down the left hand side of the box and firing his angled drive straight into the gloves of Jevdjevic.
Altona then tried to step up a gear. A 69th minute 25 yard pile-driver that was laid off from a free kick saw Anastasiadis firmly behind the ball to glove well down low.
A minute later and South should’ve been behind after static defending and miscommunication saw the league’s top scorer Saso Becvinovski through on goal and with only Anastasiadis to beat. Becvinovski looked certain to score, trying to angle his effort past Anastasiadis but the veteran custodian winded back the years to spread himself superbly and manage to get a deflection on Becvinovski’s effort to see it trickle wide for a corner.
Three minutes later and South were ahead. Naglieri played a brilliant through ball to Oliveira down the right hand side of the Altona box. With much still to do, Oliveira kept his cool and stood on the ball when the Altona defence was expecting a shot. The diminutive striker then cut the ball across goal to the back post where an unmarked Gianni De Nittis was on hand to smash home and give South the advantage.
Altona immediately lifted their intensity and should’ve leveled after 83 minutes when Becvinovski found the ball at his feet with his back to goal, 6 or so yards out. The Altona striker laid it the ball off to the right with the incoming Igor Arsovski denied, again at point blank range, by the brilliant keeping instincts of Anastasiadis.
A minute later and Oliveira almost sealed the encounter in South’s favor after the former Perth SC striker found himself down the left flank with only a defender to beat. Oliveira did well to keep the ball close and create a yard of space with the diminutive striker eventually unleashing a curling effort from 20 yards that had Jevdjevic beaten but sailed narrowly passed the right upright.
On 88 minutes South wrapped up the game after Altona had committed too many players forward searching for an equalizer. Moraes took the ball deep into the Altona half and spotted De Nittis pealing off his marker and all alone in the box. Moraes played De Nittis in, who with immense calmness and composure, calmly slotted past Jevdjevic for his seventh of the season, sending the South faithful into delirium in the process.
To Altona’s credit they didn’t give up, managing to score a consolation goal right on full time after Djulbic had given away a free kick just outside the South box and directly in front of goal. Up stepped ex-Perth Glory midfielder Daniel Vasilevski who produced a truly wonderful free kick, smashing the ball into the top left-hand corner with ferocious power and leaving Anastasiadis with no chance.
Vasilevski’s goal however took little shine off a brilliant day for South Melbourne, who showed their appreciation for their immense support by engaging in an exchange of “oles” and bows with their loyal travelling faithful.