Sunday, 11 February 2007 12:01 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne have triumphed in this season’s Hellenic Cup final defeating the Oakleigh Cannons 4-2 on penalties after regular and extra time saw both sides locked at one goal apiece.
South took the lead in the dying stages of the 2nd half with a well worked move and cut back down the right-hand side of the box that left Brazilian maestro Fernando Moraes with a simple tap in from 8 or so yards to give South the advantage.
John Anastasiadis’s men had deserved their lead after controlling the majority of the game with new signing Ricky Diaco slotting in quite well and forming an almost instant understanding with Moraes.
The Cannons however managed to level the tie when referee Jim Ouliaris awarded a dubious penalty for a foul on the diminutive Juan Nilo. Nilo had worked his way into the South defensive area and seemed to stumble on the ball just as pressure was being applied, Ouliaris showed little hesitation in pointing to the spot with South players, lead by the ever passionate Tansel Baser, surrounding Ouliaris and fiercely voicing their disapproval.
Baser however took his anger a touch too far, placing his hands on Ouliaris when remonstrating and as a result the defensive midfielder received his marching orders.
Extra time saw South look to play for penalties, adjusting their formation with Diaco dropping deeper into midfield and Gianni De Nittis leading the attack on his own.
Oakleigh had a couple of decent half chances with Pelikan failing to connect when desperately sliding to meet a dangerous low ball to the back post, and former South Melbourne midfielder Michael Panopoulos sending his free-kick, from right on the edge of the South defensive area, low but straight at South custodian Dean Anastasiadis who did very well to glove the ball amongst a sea of players.
South were superb in the penalty shootout, all four takers, Diaco, Tavsancioglu, Moraes and Scottish trialist Jones sent Cannons keeper Stuart Webster the opposite way with dual Premier League goalkeeper of the year Dean Anatasiadis pulling off two superb saves to deny Esala Masi and Anthony Pelikan. Anastasiadis read Masi like book, diving to his left to comfortably save with the veteran custodian saving Pelikan’s effort with a trailing hand once again to his left.
Aside from the silky skills and presence of Diaco, further positives for South included the battling and gutsy performance of Frank Drakopoulos who in making the two-division jump from State League 2, has shown he is willing to work extremely hard to achieve the required standard.
Furthermore, the fact that South were missing the likes of Trent Waterson, Nathan Caldwell, Yusef Yusef, Steven O’Dor, Con Blatsis and Dino Djulbic, all proven high quality players, paints and extremely positive picture for the upcoming season.
Finally, the South players and coaching staff must be commended for surrounding injured youngster Reardo Luca and making him apart of the celebrations at the end of the match. Luca of course badly broke his leg in the early stages of the Hellenic Cup so it was a fitting and emotional ending to the night.