Wednesday, 6 June 2007 5:30 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne returns to Bob Jan Stadium this Friday night looking to consolidate its position in the top six after a comfortable three-nil away win to Kingston City last week.
Inspired by the in-form Vasilios Natsioulas who has scored four goals in two games, the Champions controlled the contest, whilst not hitting a high-level of performance, to finally reclaim a top-six birth.
Traveling to Lakeside will be the newly promoted Western Suburbs, coached by ex-Heidelberg player and Oakleigh coach Michael Chatzitrifonas. Suburbs have the equal second best defence in the league, having only conceded eleven times, and whilst sitting in the relegation zone, have only suffered defeat four times.
In fact, Chatzitrifonas’s men have gone five matches undefeated, playing the most compact and defensive game in the league, yet as a result, putting themselves in a position to try and retain their Premier League status.
As a consequence of their highly defensive structure, Suburbs have the poorest return of goals scored, having only scored seven times to be by far and away the most ineffective attacking team in the competition.
Strikers Igor Khrapko and Lorenz Kindtner have scored two goals a-piece to be Suburbs’ greatest attacking threats and even though South will no doubt have the majority of possession, they will have to be alert to Suburbs’ counter-attacking game, however in-frequently it may occur.
Mitch Langerak played solidly in his debut game in goals for South last week and will no doubt retain the keeping duties. Also impressing was the 15-minute cameo of Jose Vasquez, the young central midfielder who sustained a knee injury towards the end of last season has slowly worked his way to fitness.
Vasquez looked extremely sharp and calm on the ball and will hopefully play a major role in South’s push for back-to-back championships.
Super encouraging for South has been the recent goal-scoring emergence of Vasilios Natsioulas. The young flyer has scored five times this season and has been relishing his more centralized role. Natsioulas however is nursing a hamstring strain and may miss Friday’s encounter.
South will also be without the services of young midfielder Nick Curtis for at least four weeks. Curtis injured his knee in training last week and whilst avoiding major damage, will need at least a month off to recover.
Finally, John Anastasiadis may also have the inspirational Tansel Baser available for selection. Baser who has also been nursing groin-related problems since his return from suspension, trained during the week and is a chance to play on Friday night.