Monday, 5 March 2007 11:00 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne have escaped with a three all draw after an out-of-character performance from veteran and champion goalkeeper Dean Anastasiadis saw South concede three error-filled goals and hence place itself under pressure after twice taking the lead.
New South recruit Ricky Diaco capped off a superb debut by equalizing in the dying minutes of the game to add to his wonder goal after three minutes. Vasilios Natsioulas grabbed the other goal for South.
Injuries and suspension meant the Champions didn’t have some key players at their disposal. Nevertheless Coach John Anastasiadis still sent out quite a strong lineup.
In goals veteran custodian Dean Anastasiadis took his customary position. In the centre of defence Dino Djulbic and Steven O’Dor formed a formidable partnership with Ramazan Tavsancioglu and Sammy DeVito playing in the right and left-back roles respectively. In the centre of the park, new Scottish recruit Billy Jones played in the defensive midfield position with Brazilian maestro Fernando Moraes in an attacking midfield role. Out wide, Vasilios Natsioulas started on the left wing with youngster Nick Curtis on the right. Up front, South started with new signing Ricky Diaco and promising young striker Gianni De Nittis.
South began the game very strongly, playing a very slick and direct game, however, no South fan present could’ve predicted the astonishing start to his blue and white career that Ricky Diaco was about to make. After Tavasancioglu surged forward down the centre of the park and played the ball into Diaco, no-one was expecting the giant forward to turn and latch onto a tremendous 25 yard, 3rd minute strike that gave Bergers keeper Pasi Schwalger absolutely no chance as it crashed into the bottom left-hand corner. It was truly a world-class strike and one of the best seen at Bob Jane Stadium.
Diaco nearly added a second a minute later after an excellent move by South down the right flank ended up with Moraes squaring the ball to Diaco who perhaps took a touch too many and was closed down by a superb tackle by Berger defender Daniel Jones just as he was about to shoot.
South continued to turn it on and in the 16th minute more great interplay this time saw Natsioulas released down the left. The South winger played the ball square to Moraes who unleashed a stinging drive from outside the box that Schwalger failed to glove with the ball rebounding through the middle of the Heidelberg box. De Nittis latched onto a volley – from just outside the box – that seemed destined for the top-right hand corner off the boot but was unfortunately smothered by a Bergers’ defender.
Seemingly against the run of play Heidelberg equalized in the 18th minute. South conceded a dangerous free kick on the far left side on edge of their defensive area. Up stepped Heidelberg set piece specialist Nick Sabljak who managed to get his shot over the wall, but without much venom behind it, it seemed a relatively easy save for Anastasiadis. However and unfortunately for South, the ball seemed to bounce in front of Anastasiadis just as he tried to glove it and bounced off his chest, into the upright and then scrambled over the line.
South quickly re-grouped and re-took the lead on 20 minutes after Moraes found some space on the right flank and sent a decent ball into the Heidelberg box. The United defence struggled to convincingly clear with the ball eventually falling to the back post where an alert Natsioulas was on hand to comfortably head past Schwalger and return the initiative to South.
The South faithful could not believe what unfolded next as Sabljak again, this time from 25 or so yards out sent another free kick over the South wall and this time past a diving Anastasiadis who managed to get a glove onto the ball but could not prevent it from trickling into the bottom right corner.
The South players and faithful were stunned after completely dominating for the opening 20 or so minutes yet still conceding two goals without the Bergers actually getting in behind the South defensive line.
The second half began with most of the sting taken out of the encounter. Heidelberg on the back of Sabljak’s goals had slowly started to get more of the ball with the match now evenly balanced.
South missed a golden opportunity in the 55th minute after Diaco played in Moraes down the right side of the Heidelberg box. Moraes had only Schwalger to beat but was faced with a tight angle, his eventual angled drive sailed narrowly over the crossbar with Schwalger perhaps getting a fingertip onto the strike.
Two minutes later and Heidelberg’s tactic of playing with a lone striker paid off after a superb searching ball by Sabljak eluded the South defence with nippy winger/striker Andy Vlahos latching onto the ball. South keeper Anastasiadis appeared to misread the situation, coming out immediately with Vlahos rounding him with ease and tucking into an empty net to give the Bergers the ascendancy.
Sensing a valuable three points Heidelberg Coach Con Pappas stacked his defence and looked to hold onto the result. For the most part the tactic worked with South appearing to lack ideas when going forward. South did however have a genuine claim for handball in the 69th minute after a Moraes cross from the right appeared to hit the hand of a Berger defender but the referee waved play on.
Coach Anastasiadis was forced to change things around and take some risks. He sent on off season recruit Frank Drakopoulos with the soldier-built defender trying to spark some positiveness into South’s play. The move seemed to work with Drakopoulos bringing some much needed energy into South’s game.
With time running out South equalized after a looping through ball was poorly dealt with by the Heidelberg defence. The ball fell to Diaco inside the box and on a slight angle with the South marksman making no mistake in comfortably slotting the ball past a fully stretched Schwalger and into the bottom left hand corner in the 86th minute.
It was a lucky escape for South who after starting the game so well where let down by defensive lapses, nevertheless with Diaco making a superb debut and a point gained John Anastasiadis’s men can take some positives out of the game.