Sunday, 25 March 2007 10:00 PM
By George Kouroumalis
A Matthew Sanders strike with only seconds remaining has seen South Melbourne defeated for the first time this season, in front of a healthy crowd at Bob Jane Stadium on Sunday.
South made the early running, with Brazilian maestro Fernando almost opening the scoring in just the 10th minute after a well struck free kick was comfortably stopped by Green Gully keeper Tomas Kovar.
In the 16th minute Fernando continued to press forward playing a lovely ball into the path of in form striker Ricky Diaco, who after a poor first touch could not manage to hit his shot anywhere near the target.
South suffered a massive blow in the 18th minute, when inspirational captain Dean Anastasiadis was forced from the field after sustaining a leg injury. This could keep the veteran out for a period of time.
Replacing Anastasiadis was youngster Miladen Tosic, who was making his senior debut for the club.
South continued to pressure the Gully defence and should have taken the lead in the 22nd minute after a sensational run by newcomer Trent Waterson culminated in the ex-Sunshine winger playing a superb ball into Nathan Caldwell, who was pouncing inside the penalty area. Caldwell subsequently had his shot blocked by the determined Gully defence, only for the rebound to fall into the path of Gianni De Nittis, who blasted his well hit drive just over the bar.
The near miss seemed to spark Green Gully into action, with the Keilor based side squandering a massive opportunity to take the lead, after great lead up play by Campbell Banks finished with the ball being released to veteran Vargas in space just outside the area with only the keeper to beat. To the relief of the South faithful, the shot was misdirected by Vargas with the ball skidding past the left hand post and out for a goal kick.
South had the last chance of the half, when Fernando once again took it on his own shoulders to try and lift his side into the lead by playing a lovely ball into the path of his partner in crime Ricky Diaco. with the striker once again hitting a weak shot into the arms of Tomas Kovar. This ensured that both sides would go into half time with scores level.
Green Gully came out of the blocks in the second half and could have taken the lead almost immediately when an inviting ball fell into the path of Manny Muscat, who hit a blistering drive just over the cross bar in the 48th minute.
Two minutes later, Gully had another long range effort go agonisingly close to breaking the dead lock, when a swerving long range drive by Kristijan Ivesic drifted just past the right hand goalpost and out for a goal kick.
Gully continued to pepper the South Melbourne goal and once again could have scored in the 54th minute when a sublime in-swinging corner by Vargas was destined for the top corner of the goal, however an athletic save by debutant Tosic denied the veteran. From the resulting corner the visitors once again squandered another decent chance, when Kiwi Banks rose above the South defence, however he directed his header over the bar.
Banks continued to look dangerous up front and after a sensational run past the South defence, released a well weighted ball into the path of Ivesic, who was left one on one with keeper Tosic, looking almost certain to find the back of the net. To the enjoyment of the South faithful, Tosic came out confidently and thwarted the attack with a superb save, keeping his side in the game.
Substitute Bill Natsioulas had a chance against the run of play to snatch a goal for the home side, but the midfielder let himself down with a tame shot from inside the area, with the shot going straight into the arms of Kovar, who had yet to be tested by the home side.
With the game looking certain to finish in a scoreless draw, a final foray forward by Green Gully side saw midfielder John Adam blast past the left hand side of the South defence and play a superb ball into the path of Matthew Sanders, who tapped the ball into the back of the net giving his side a last-minute victory.
South Melbourne FC 0
Green Gully 1 (Sanders 90+3)