Tuesday, 7 August 2007 12:41 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
Two second half counter-attacking goals within the space of four minutes has propelled South back into the top six after John Anastasiadis’s men produced a gritty and determined display to defeat the Melbourne Knights by two goals to nil.
Headed goals by Vasilios Natsioulas and Nathan Caldwell broke the spirit of the home side and has allowed South to sneak back into the top-six with a top-three placing now in sight.
South were bolstered by the return of the inspirational Arthur Tsonis in his natural position of centre back but were without the services of Tansel Baser who was missing due to accumulated yellow cards.
Brazilian maestro Fernando Moraes also didn’t make the squad after succumbing to the same knee injury that has plagued him all season.
Coach Anastasiadis fielded the following lineup. Mitch Langerak started in goals with Sammy DeVito and Arthur Tsonis the central defensive pairing. Rama Tavsanscioglu was deployed in the right-back role with Adam Van Dommele slotting in at left-back. In the centre of the park Vasilios Natsioulas and Gianni De Nittis were given the duty of winning the midfield battle with in-form Trent Waterson and Yusef Yusef deployed on the right and left flanks respectively. Up front Nathan Caldwell and Ricky Diaco gave the South attack a dominating physical presence.
The first half was quite a lackluster affair; both sides seemed to be lacking the needed intensity that the aura of such a fixture usually creates with South more than happy to soak up as much pressure as possible as the Knights had the advantage of attacking with a strong head-wind.
South were dealt a blow when Yusef Yusef had to come off midway through the first half after straining a calf muscle. Yusef was replaced by Andrew Bourakis who slotted into a central midfield role.
Natsioulas registered the first notable attempt on goal after 29 minutes when the flashy South attacking midfielder attempted a dipping volleyed-attempt that came off the side of the boot and was headed for the top corner with Knights custodian Adrian Cagalj seemingly having the situation under control. The late dip however was closer than what Cagalj had anticipated with the Knights’ keeper beginning to scramble only to stop almost immediately as the ball rested on top of the goal.
A minute later the Knights flashed a 25 yard effort well wide with Diaco then finding some space in the 32nd minute in the Knight’s box but from the tight angle South’s top-scorer failed to test Cagalj, hitting his effort comfortably wide.
South were fortunate to escape on 40 minutes after failing to convincingly clear, the ball bobbled into the 6 yard box with ex-Oakleigh Cannons froward Ante Pelikan on hand to comfortably slot past Langerak from point blank range. Fortunately for South the Assistant Referee had, it must be said, correctly flagged for offside and the goal was disallowed.
With Gianni De Nittis succumbing to flu, Coach Anastasiadis brought on youngster Jose Vasquez for the start of the second half. Vasquez was instructed to play the holding role and immediately slotted in looking extremely comfortable and up to the task.
South began the second half brightly after a Van Dommele throw in to Diaco on the edge of the Knights’ box saw the South striker fend off his marker and work his way into the 18-yard area. His eventual angled strike was always rising but was hit with quite some venom and no doubt left Cagalj thankful that the strike wasn’t on target.
The Knights then carved out a glorious chance when Caldwell conceded possession in the centre of the park, the ball was quickly moved to the edge of the 18-yard area where Pelikan hit a low and powerful drive that saw Langerak at full stretch, but thankfully for South, the ball sailed just past the left-upright. It was a wake up call for South who were reminded of the home side’s ability on the counter.
The best chance for the Knights was squandered on 66 minutes after some great work by Joe Spiteri on the edge of the South box, saw the ex-Marconi Stallions striker turn Sammy DeVito inside out and square the ball perfectly for substitute Mate Dugandzic who from 5 yards and with seemingly no pressure, inexcusably skied his effort over the crossbar.
It was a miss that would ultimately cost the Knights as against the run of play two minutes later, a desperate lunge by Caldwell in South’s final attacking third released Waterson down the right, the crafty winger who has been in sparkling form over the past two months managed to work some space for himself and put in a looping ball to the near post. Natsioulas somehow managed to sandwich himself in between the Knights defence and beat Cagalj to ball to send the most delicate of headers over the Knights keeper to give South an unexpected lead.
Four minutes later and South completed their smash-and-grab result after Waterson again received the ball down the right, this time the ex-Georgies winger checked back on his left foot and sent in a superb cross that gave Caldwell the easiest of tasks to head home from 8 or so yards past the helpless Cagalj who had not conceded a goal at Somers Street all season, but had now within the space of four minutes, plucked the ball from his net twice.
South nearly capped there burst of dominance with a third after Diaco dispossessed a Knights defence on the edge of their defensive area in the 74th minute with the ball falling to Natsioulas who made some space and nearly sent his right foot curling effort into the far corner with the ball eventually sailing narrowly wide.
South were then quite happy to soak up the pressure and protect the result. The Knights were visibly deflated and didn’t really put much pressure on the South defence in the last 20 minutes.
South’s crucial win propels the Albert Park-based club into the top six and in reaching distance of a top-three birth. A positive result in the upcoming Friday night fixture against the Fawkner Blues could go some way into consolidating finals football for the third consecutive year at Bob Jane Stadium.