Sunday, 20 May 2007 7:21 PM
By George Kouroumalis
Round 10 of the Foxtel Cup will culminate on Monday night, with a mouthwatering contest between the Whittlesea Zebras and South Melbourne at Epping Stadium.
In recent weeks, both sides have started to find their feet. The Zebras seem to have put behind them an indifferent and perhaps unlucky start to the season by taking 2 wins and a draw from their last three outings, including an impressive and hard working 2-2 draw against the odds last week at Heidelberg.
South Melbourne on the other hand have had an uncharacteristic start to their season by conceding quite a few goals in the early games and being beaten at home on two occasions, by the high flying Green Gully and Altona Magic three weeks ago. Following the 1-3 defeat to Altona, South have rallied to defeat the AIS and then comprehensively beat the Springvale White Eagles 6-0 to improve their home form and goal difference.
The Zebras, who lie only 3 points outside the top 6, are looking to improve their home form also, only winning once at Epping Stadium so far this season. In their next three matches they play 3 sides in the upper regions of the table, starting with South Melbourne at home this round.
To get the points against a tough and talented South lineup, Zebras coach Michael Michalakopoulos will be looking towards a few individuals to spark up his side. The main threat is the young and energetic striker Hamlet Armenian, who has had an impressive start to the season, scoring on four occasions and playing a part in most forward thrusts that the Zebras generate. In support, A-League bound Billy Celeski and the underrated workhorse Steve Martin must also be on their game and be working together with Armenian in order to give the South defence massive headaches.
The battle in the middle of the park will also be an important factor in the contest, with Josip Kozic and Eric Vassiliadis having to try and stifle the influence of Tansel Baser, who in his two games after returning from suspension has dominated proceedings, playing an integral part in the recent form of the South Melbourne side. Vassiliadis will also be looked upon to give his side some drive from the midfield and generally provide another problem for the South defence to deal with.
Defensively the Zebras will once again be marshalled by John Angelovski, who will be looking to organize his defensive unit to give young keeper Ken Gerohristodoulou very little work to do, despite the youngster being in superb form so far in the Foxtel Cup. Should they succeed in their defensive conquest, the Zebras will go a long way to defeating the attacking South Melbourne side.
South Melbourne on the other hand will approach this game in 6th position, with an eye on trying to get the win that will push them higher on the table. Despite a horrible home record so far in 2007, the blues have performed very well away from Bob Jane Stadium, remaining undefeated away from home this season.
As per usual, South will be looking to attack the Zebras defence from the outset, with the former Zebra Ricky Diaco leading the charge up front against his old side. Diaco, who was a high profile signing for the reigning champions, has so far been one of the performers of the season, scoring six goals and causing every defence problems whenever he has the ball at his feet.
In support, Nathan Caldwell should once again get the nod as Diaco’s strike partner, with the tall and quick front man scoring five goals so far this season. In addition, inspirational Brazilian Fernando will be behind the forwards feeding the ball to their feet.
In the middle of the park, Tansel Baser has given the side some real stability in both an attacking and defensive sense and for the Zebras to win, they must stop Baser having any influence on the game. The Zebras must also come up against a superb back 4, including three A-League quality players in Steve O’Dor (bound for Wellington Phoenix), Dino Djulbic (bound for Perth Glory) and Ramazan (ex-Melbourne Victory), along with veteran defender Arthur Tsonis patrolling the left hand side of defence.
Despite the quality of defensive players, South has been uncharacteristically guilty of conceding plenty of goals this season. This provides the Zebras with some hope that they can get something from their forward thrusts.
Taking all that into account and with both sides chasing an important three points, this game promises to be an enthralling contest that hopefully sees both sides play some attractive and exciting attacking football in front of what is expected to be a large crowd at Epping Stadium.