Tuesday, 22 May 2007 7:52 PM
By George Kouroumalis
South Melbourne has continued its up and down start to the season after being defeated by a spirited Whittlesea Zebras side 3-2 at freezing Epping Stadium on Monday.
John Anastasiadis kept a similar squad to the one that comprehensively beat Springvale 6-0 the week before, with only Arthur Tsonis making way for Sam DeVito. Joining DeVito in defence were central defenders Dino Djulbic and Steven O’Dor and the inspirational Ramazan, who had started the season in great form.
The midfield was made up of the same faces as the previous week, with Trent Waterson patrolling the left hand flank and Yusef Yusef being asked to replicate his superb form of the Springvale game. Tansel Baser was asked to perform the central midfield duties against old foe Eric Vasiliadis, while Fernando provided the link between the midfielders and Ricky Diaco and Nathan Caldwell, who were up front for South.
South uncharacteristically started the game on the back foot, with Whittlesea attacking from the outset and trying to unsettle the South defence with some early speculative long range efforts. In midfield, the Zebras were dictating terms and subsequently were playing all over South. They were rewarded when defensive confusion by South allowed A-League bound Billy Celeski to get past the final defender and slip the ball past young keeper Mladen Tosic and into the back of the net.
After conceding the goal, South came out of their shell and through ex-Zebra front man Ricky Diaco were nearly on equal terms, after he hit a goal bound drive into the arms of Ken Gerhristodoulou in the Whittlesea goal.
South equalised moments later, with what can be described as a contender for goal of the season by Ramazan. He produced a strong defensive tackle, reclaimed possession of the ball and began to dash up the right hand touch line. After stepping past one defender and spinning past another, he hit a speculative and intentional 35 yard rocket towards the goal, with the ball swinging and dipping into the top right hand corner and over the fully-stretched Gerhristodoulou, sending the South fans into blue delirium.
With the game looking to be all square at the half time interval, a final foray forward by the Zebras saw the ball come into the area and deflect through a sea of legs, including Steve Martin who seemed to have the final touch before the ball rolled into the open net to give the Zebras a 2-1 advantage at the break.
The Zebras came out in the 2nd half in a totally different fashion to the first, seeming content to sit back and absorb the South attacks and try and hold onto their slender one goal advantage. The defensive mindset almost saw the Zebras concede an equalizer in the first 20 minutes of the half, with Nathan Caldwell, Yusef Yusef and Ricky Diaco all having their efforts saved by Gerhristodoulou in goals.
The chance of the game came soon after, when substitute Bill Natsioulas delivered an inch perfect ball from the right hand flank to the feet of Fernando, who unbelievably mis-kicked the ball from close range straight into the arms of the surprised Gerhristodoulou.
Almost immediately, a counter attack by the Zebras, in what was their first real attack of the second half, saw the ball released to Billy Celeski, who danced past the South defence and with acres of space hit a low shot past Tosic, giving his side a two goal buffer with five minutes remaining.
To South’s credit, they continued to push forward and pulled back a goal immediately after the re-start, when Wellington-bound defender Steven O’Dor climbed over the Whittlesea defence and nodded home his side’s second of the night from a free kick.
South sensed that they could steal a point from the match and the final 5 minutes saw the away side attack at all costs, bombarding the goals of Gerhristodoulou at every opportunity. However, the Zebras keeper stood up at every occasion, determined to prove to be the difference in the game.
With time ticking away and the referee eying his watch, South launched one final attack at goal. An inviting ball into the box was headed on target by Dino Djulbic, who had made his way forward. Gerhristodoulou made the save of the match, tipping the ball over the bar from a fully outstretched and aerial position. The save ensured that his side would finish the encounter with all 3 points.
South Melbourne must now front up against the high-flying Preston Lions, in what promises to be a cracking derby match next Sunday at 4.30pm at Bob Jane Stadium. The match is open only to South Melbourne members.