Friday, 3 August 2007 12:41 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
After smashing the Oakleigh Cannons 5-2, South Melbourne travel to Knights Stadium not only rekindling Australian Football’s most famous derby, but somewhat more importantly, seeing two teams desperately needing three points to boost their finals aspirations take the field in what looms as an extremely important fixture.
Following a disappointing month of results and lackluster displays, the Champions produced the sort of football that they are fully capable of, destroying the star-studded Oakleigh Cannons outfit by what ended up being quite a flattering scoreline for the visitors who were not only fortunate to score two goals, but where extremely lucky to only concede five.
Encouraging for South was the tremendous form of its attacking players. Trent Waterson in particular once again distinguished himself, showing superb craft on the right flank and continuing a stellar run of performances which have seen his stocks rise tremendously and murmurs of an A-League contract begin to surface.
Furthermore, Yusef Yusef continued his gradual integration into the side, proving a threat on the left flank and managing to score twice against the Cannons to take his tally to four goals for the season. Goal-scoring out-and-out left flankers are extremely difficult to find with Yusef having to be commended on playing on his non-preferred side and in an unfamiliar position yet gradually as the year is progressing, developing his game to the point where he can be extremely damaging to the opposition.
Pleasing for South supporters was the return to goal-scoring form of inspirational striker Ricky Diaco. Diaco has been a phenomenon in his first season at South, managing 10 goals to date to be only a goal off leading the golden boot race. More importantly, Diaco’s physical presence and superb ball control have allowed him to bring in players around him and really give South a cutting edge up front.
Against the Cannons, Diaco scored a certain contender for goal of the season, smashing a superb 20-yard free-kick past the hapless Michael Turnbull to round off South’s domination. It is the sort of inspirational piece of play that Diaco is capable of and perhaps against the Knights, such brilliance will be necessary to unlock what is by far the best defence in the league with the Knights having conceded only 12 times this campaign.
More encouraging for South was that both central defensive giants Arthur Tsonis and Con Blatsis played with the reserves last week. Tsonis is likely to come back straight into the squad for the game against the Knights after missing 5 weeks with a knee injury suffered against Richmond. It is likely that Tsonis will slot straight into his preferred position of central defence, perhaps partnering the experienced Tansel Baser and hence solidifying South’s defensive core.
In regards to Con Blatsis, the colossal defender has hardly played any football over the past year with the coaching staff no doubt planning to try and ease him in with the view of getting him right for the finals’ campaign.
In the Knights camp, the Sunshine-based club currently sits in sixth place and with a game in hand. However, with the top six so congested, a win could see the Knights solidify their position in the finals’ race and push towards a top-two birth.
Chris Taylor has built a very talented squad that has seen experienced players such as ex-South Melbourne players Steve Iosifidis and Alex Kiratzoglou, former Adelaide City goalkeeper Adrian Cagalj and strikers Ante Pelikan and Joe Spiteri blended with up-and-coming talent such as Ivan Franjic, Stefan Piorkowski, Daniel Visevic and Mate Dugandzic.
As a result, the Knights have established one of the most exciting yet seasoned teams in the Foxtel Cup and present South Melbourne with an extremely difficult task this Sunday afternoon.