Saturday, 28 July 2007 2:13 AM
By George Kouroumalis
South Melbourne have surged back into finals contention after defeating the Oakleigh Cannons in a classic derby match in front of a healthy crowd at Bob Jane Stadium on Friday night.
Coming into the encounter, Oakleigh had come off a resounding 6-0 demolition of the Heidelberg Warriors and a win would have sent them to top spot on the Foxtel Cup table. Meanwhile, South hadn’t scored in over six hours of competitive football, with their last goal coming back on June 17th in the 0-2 win over Sunshine Georgies at Chaplin Reserve.
South commenced the game in an attacking frame of mind, creating a superb chance in the first minute of play when Bill Natsioulas dribbled through the heart of the Cannons defence, only for his shot to be driven wide of the target and away for a goalkick.
The home side continued to press forward in the early stages of the game with Yusef Yusef also opting to take on the defence before hitting a blistering drive into the side netting.
Oakleigh had their first real opportunity in the 12th minute of play, after some great lead up work by MacNicol on the right hand side of the area opened up a sizeable gap for Pablo Cardozo to burst through. Unfortunately for the former national league star, he scuffed his shot from well inside the area, with the ball landing into the arms of Mitchell Langerak in the South goal.
In response, South launched a stinging counter attack, with Gianni De Nittis latching onto a well weighted ball from Ramazan. DeNittis then slotted the ball into the path of Nathan Caldwell, who from outside the area hit a low drive onto the target that produced an excellent save by Michael Turnball in the Oakleigh goal.
The final chance of the opening half once again fell to the home side, with Ramazan making a storming run down the right hand touch line before launching an ambitious long range effort well wide of the target.
Oakleigh came out in the second half looking like a side on a mission after a rather disappointing opening half. Thanks to sloppy defending by South, they were gifted with an opportunity only 40 seconds into the half. On this occasion, after an initial ball was cleared off the line by Ramazan, the ball fell back into the path of Cardozo, who from only three yards smacked his shot directly into the arms of Langerak who didn’t have to move at his near post.
South immediately responded with an attack of their own. This time Diaco was given the ball just outside the right hand side of the box and after passing Stergiopoulos with ease, attempted to slam a shot into the near post. However, Turnball was alert enough to pick Diaco’s placement and the experienced keeper parried the ball safely out for a corner.
The game reached a new level in the 52nd minute when Diaco once again used his body to perfection to turn Stergiopoulos inside out on the edge of the area. Diaco then turned around and hit a low and accurate drive past the outstretched Turnball and into the back of the net for the opening goal.
South were keen to hold onto their advantage, however Oakleigh were back on level terms only two minutes later when some poor defending by the home side allowed for Pablo Cardozo to pop up inside the area and tap the ball into the back of the net.
In what was turning out to be a classic game of football, South regained the advantage in the 57th minute of play, when a sublime turn and ball by Caldwell unlocked the Oakleigh defence, sending Yusef into acres of space with only Turnball to beat. After taking a few touches, Yusef launched his drive past the helpless Turnball to send the South supporters into frenzy.
The Cannons continued to push forward in an attempt to find another equalising goal and managed to do so in the 68th minute, when the ball fell into the feet of substitute Veresa Toma. The big striker calmly took a touch and smashed the ball past Langerak’s near post, to level the scores at 2-2.
The amazing second half of end to end football continued and in the 70th minute, a well worked move culminated in an innocuous ball not being cleared at all by the Oakleigh defence. Sensing a chance to gain possession, Yusef stormed into the area, avoiding the host of Oakleigh defenders trying to clear the ball to safety and subsequently forced the ball over the goal line from no more than a metre out to give his side a 3-2 lead.
South Melbourne continued to push forward, sensing that another goal would almost effectively kill off any chance Oakleigh had of coming back for a third time.
In the 75th minute, Waterson, who was running the show in the midfield area, launched a stinging long-range effort onto the target after rounding and beating three Oakleigh defenders. Thankfully for the Cannons, Turnball acrobatically repelled the attack and calmly turned the ball around the post for another South corner.
The superb attacking football continued in the 80th minute when a beautiful turn and ball by Caldwell once again ripped a hole through the heart of the Cannons defence. Ramazan latched onto the ball and found himself one-on-one with Turnbull. Ramazan hit a blistering drive past Turnball’s near post, to secure all 3 points for his side.
The home side were not done with yet however and added the icing on the cake in the 84th minute through Ricky Diaco, who from 20 yards hit a world class free kick into the top corner of the net off the crossbar, leaving Turnbull with absolutely no chance of stopping the shot and sending the home fans into party mode.
Man of the Match Trent Waterson was delighted with the performance post match, claiming “This was the real turning point in our season as Oakleigh are a high quality opponent and to defeat such a side will do wonders for our confidence. We need to continue working hard over the remaining parts of the season to make sure we are there for the finals.”
The Oakleigh goal scorer Veresa Toma was far more subdued in his analysis of the game saying “It was nice to score a goal personally which at that point was the equalizing goal, but the team success is far more important and the three points would have been great today, but that’s football”.
South’s next game is against fellow top-six aspirants Melbourne Knights at Knights Stadium next Sunday at 3pm, while the Oakleigh Cannons will be trying to get back to winning ways when they host Essendon Royals next Friday night at 8.15pm.
South Melbourne FC 5 (Ricky Diaco 52’ 84’, Yusef Yusef 57’ 70’, Ramazan 80’)
Mitchell Langerak, Sam DeVito, Trent Waterson (Jose Vasquez), Adam Van Dommele, Nathan Caldwell, Bill Natsioulas (Fernando De Moraes), Ricky Diaco, Ramazan, Tansel Baser, Yusef Yusef (Andrew Bourakis), Gianni DeNittis
Cautions: Gianni DeNittis
Oakleigh Cannons 2 (Cardozo 54’, Toma 68’)
Michael Turnball, Marcus Stergiopoulos, Michael Panopoulos, Bill Damianos, Antun Kovacic (Felix Rosman) , Steve Laurie, Juan Nilo, Pablo Cardozo, Sam Poutakidis, Scott MacNicol, Scott Webster (Veresa Toma)