Saturday, 31 March 2007 12:20 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne and Oakleigh have played out a hard fought one-all draw in Friday night’s much anticipated encounter.
The visitors capped off a superb start to the game when Ricky Diaco calmly slotted the opener after 21 minutes, latching onto a delicate chip through ball by Brazilian maestro Fernando Moraes that left him one-on-one with Oakleigh custodian Stuart Webster with South’s prolific front man smashing a right foot strike past the helpless Cannons keeper.
South dominated most of the first half but against the run of play conceded a needless penalty. Oakleigh had attacked down the right flank and right on the corner of the South penalty area, Djulbic mistimed his challenge, cutting across his opponent without getting the ball with referee Perry Mur pointing to the spot instantly.
Up stepped Ante Pelikan who sent his shot off the left-hand post and past Tosic to level in the 40th minute.
Coach John Anastasiadis made a couple of changes to his starting lineup, in came youngsters Nick Curtis and Yusef Yusef whilst young goalkeeper Mladen Tosic made his starting debut for the club as replacement for club legend Dean Anatasiadis after the veteran goalkeeper tore an anterior cruciate ligament in last week’s encounter against Green Gully.
South lined up as follows. Mladen Tosic began in goals with South opting for a flat back three system seeing Ramazan Tavsacioglu, Steven O’Dor and Dino Djulbic as the dedicated defensive trio. In the centre of the park Sammy DeVito continued in his new found defensive midfield role with youngster Nick Curtis beside him. Yusef Yusef and Trent Waterson were deployed as left and right wingbacks respectively with Brazilian Fernando Moraes in his usual attacking midfield role. Up front Nathan Caldwell once again partnered the in form Ricky Diaco.
With most of the 3000-4000 in attendance South Melbourne supporters, South seemed to be playing in a “home-away-from-home” type of atmosphere. As a result the visitors quickly seized control of the game, knocking the ball around well and putting Oakleigh under continuous pressure.
South had two decent strikes in the 6th and 7th minute. Firstly Moraes sent his shot from outside the box narrowly past the upright and then Tavsancioglu did the same a minute later from a similar position.
Juan Nilo dug out a half chance for the Cannons in the 9th minute after a cross from the left flank found the diminutive forward reaching to make contact, with his eventual header sailing just wide of the left upright.
South continued their onslaught when the ball fell into Diaco’s path, only for the South striker to send his venomous 10th minute effort over the crossbar.
The Champions were rewarded for their spectacular and bullish start to the game when on 21 minutes, a superb piece of interplay between Moraes and Diaco sliced open the Oakleigh defence. Moraes sent a delicate flick over the top that released Diaco with only Oakleigh custodian Stuart Webster to beat. Diaco made no mistake, smashing his strike into the top right-hand corner of the goal and sending the majority pro South Melbourne crowd into a frenzy.
South continued to dominate in hope of scoring a second, Moraes made some space for himself on 33 minutes but blasted over from the top of the box when he really should’ve done better.
The visitors were unlucky not to double their advantage after 34 minutes when Yusef was released down the right and sent in a great cross that Webster couldn’t glove. The ball eventually fell to Moraes on the left hand side of the box with his angled strike, which seemed destined for the bottom right-hand corner, superbly saved by Webster at full stretch.
Oakleigh were severely struggling, leading goal-scorer Esala Masi had been totally outplayed and nullified by South’s defensive trio with the Cannons having to rely on Pelikan for all their attacking raids.
After 40 minutes Oakleigh undeservedly got back into the game after a Pelikan run down the right wing saw the winger cut inside and work his way to the edge of the South area. Inexplicably Djulbic put in a rushed challenged, cutting across Pelikan and forcing referee Perry Mur to point to the spot.
Pelikan stepped up and just converted, sending his low strike in off the left hand post with young Tosic diving the right way but unable to keep the strike out.
Oakleigh’s goal raised their belief levels with ex-South Melbounre player Bill Damianos forcing a low and sharp save from Tosic during stoppage time and then Pelikan sending in a vicious cross/shot from the left that seemed destined to loop over Tosic but fortunately for South hit the right upright.
In the second half the home side gained the initiative but was largely unable to break down the South defence.
The Cannons started to dominate in midfield but it was South who should’ve went ahead when Webster failed to convincingly parry a shot on the turn by Caldwell with the ball falling into the path of Moraes who from 2 yards out saw his side-foot effort smothered by the desperate Webster.
Pelikan was continuing to cause South problems out wide on the right with one of his crosses taking a wicked deflection and skimming the crossbar deep into the 2nd half.
South could’ve snatched it right at the death when substitute Gianni De Nittis was played in behind the Cannons defence but his first touch was poor and the chance was lost.
Referee Mur then immediately blew his whistle to end the match in what was in all honesty a fair result for both sides but one in which South can take much heart out of, after their largely youth-based side put Oakleigh to the sword for the first 40 minutes of the game.