Sunday, 22 April 2007 9:16 PM
By George Kouroumalis
After a three-week layoff without a competitive fixture, South Melbourne returned to Foxtel Cup action earlier today, earning a hard fought but well deserved point against the Fawkner Blues at CB Smith Reserve.
Coach John Anastasiadis kept faith in a similar lineup to what had been seen in recent weeks. Youngster Miladen Tosic once again was given his chance to shine in goal, in the absence of South veteran Dean Anastasiadis.
In front of him, Arthur Tsonis, Dino Djulbic, Steve O’dor and Ramazan were once again at the heart of the South defence, ready to repel any Fawkner attack.
Sam DeVito and Nick Curtis were once again selected in the middle of the park, with Trent Waterson and Fernando given more attacking midfield roles and open licence to push forward and assist both Ricky Diaco and Nathan Caldwell who were up front for South.
No side really asserted themselves on the game in the first half, with both sides unable to string together any real decent foray forward on the bumpy and uneven surface.
The first real chance came in the 33rd minute, when a weak clearance by the South Melbourne defence gifted in-form striker David Pilic with a chance to give his side the advantage. Forcing his way into the area, Pilic took a touch and slammed the ball into the fence behind the goal without troubling Tosic, who at that stage had barely touched the ball.
South returned to the other end almost immediately, when a sublime run by Ricky Diaco saw the former Gold Medal winner play what seemed to be an inch perfect ball into the path of Fernando. To the surprise of many, he was deemed to be in an offside position.
With the first half providing the punters on hand with a rather poor display of football from both sides, everyone was keen to see whether the standard and endeavor of both sides would lift at all in the second half.
The 51st minute saw the first shot of the half, when the energetic Trent Waterson was released down the right hand side of the park. His cross that was met with the head of Caldwell, with the former Melbourne Knights marksman off target.
Waterson continued his hard running down the right hand flank and shortly after the Caldwell miss provided two sublime crosses which both caught the Fawkner defence and South forwards by surprise, ending in a wasted opportunity on both occassions.
South continued to press forward with no way through the rock solid Fawkner defence, with ex-South player Carl Recchia superb in his role as sweeper, ensuring every South foray forward was killed off at the first opportunity.
With Fernando having very little influence on the game, South coach John Anastasiadis made a tactical switch, bringing on the dangerous Yusef Yusef in the hope that the midfielder would be able to open up a hole in a very tight Fawkner defence.
The move nearly paid immediate dividends when Yusef was released down the middle and got past the outstretched legs of two defenders with a lovely step-over, only for Recchia to once again save the day for the home side with a superb tackle.
Buoyed by the support of the traveling faithful behind the end that South were attacking towards, the boys from lakeside continued to search for a winner. There were two opportunities to take the full points in the final 10 minutes, firstly when an opportunistic strike by Diaco produced one of the saves of the season by Steven Tilovski in the Fawkner goal, denying the South striker.
Then, with only moments left on the clock, a horrendous mix up between the Fawkner defence and keeper Tilovski gifted striker Caldwell with the ball and an open goal, however to the disbelief of everyone at the ground, he pushed his shot wide of the target and out for a goalkick.
From the resulting goalkick the referee blew his whistle, bringing to the end a frustrating game in which South dominated the second half but could not just find the back of the net. However, with a lack of matches in recent weeks, an away draw was an acceptable result and well deserved.
South Melbourne face the Altona Magic in the Grand Final re-match next Sunday at Bob Jane Stadium. Kick-off is at 4.30pm.