Saturday, 11 August 2007 3:08 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
Image taken by Alex Louziotis
South Melbourne has failed to consolidate a position in the top six after missing a host of good chances leaving their encounter against the Vlado Vanis-coached Fawkner Blues at a nil-all stalemate.
Coach John Anastasiadis had Tansel Baser back at his disposal for the fixture after Baser missed last week due to suspension whilst Yusef Yusef missed the match due to the calf injury sustained against the Knights.
Anastasiadis lined his men up as follows. Young custodian Mitch Langerak continued in goals with a central defensive pairing of Sammy DeVito and Arthur Tsonis in front of him. Rama Tavsancioglu and Adam Van Dommele took up their usual right and left-back roles.
In the centre of the park Tansel Baser was deployed in a defensive midfield/organizing role with Gianni De Nittis in a more attacking central midfield role. Trent Waterson and Vasilios Natsioulas played on the right and left flanks respectively. Up front, Nathan Caldwell continued his partnership with South top-scorer Ricky Diaco.
New Fawkner coach Vlado Vanis sent his troops out to play ultra defensively, a method employed by many visiting clubs at Bob Jane Stadium this season. South have struggled to break down teams with such a philosophy with Vanis no doubt hoping to absorb the pressure and then try and pinch a goal on the counter.
South started the better team and dominated possession, Gianni De Nittis had an early strike from just outside the box sail over the crossbar whilst Natsioulas was denied by Fawkner custodian Steven Tilovski after his angled drive from the left was saved well by the Blues keeper.
Adam Van Dommele came off after 30 minutes and was replaced by Frank Drakopoulos after sustaining an elbow to the mouth. The ex-Adelaide United defender lost a tooth in the incident with the pressure of the collision also causing a laceration under the eye. He is expected to miss a least a couple of weeks.
South had a glorious chance to go ahead after 38 minutes when a Tavsancioglu free kick from the right was played into a dangerous area with Caldwell rising and meeting the ball with a firm header that crashed against Fawkner’s crossbar. The rebound fell to Natsioulas who from a tight-angle unleashed a quality angled effort that Tilovski managed to parry away at full stretch, a mini-scramble ensued in the six-yard box with legs flying everywhere but with Fawkner managing to clear.
A minute later, Tavsancioglu hit the right-flank hard and produced a quality cross that was met with a looping header by Diaco who saw his effort sail just over the crossbar.
During stoppages Fawkner had a half-chance after South hesitated in defence with Fawkner striker Mark Tsiorlas hitting his effort well over.
South replaced Baser at half time with Jose Vasquez after Baser appeared to aggravate a groin muscle injury and was struggling to walk right at the death of the first half.
The 2nd half began with South once again being denied by the framework. This time Diaco worked some superb space in the 47th minute and produced a stunning strike on the turn that crashed into the right-top corner of the framework.
Fifty-four minutes in and Diaco was denied by Tilovski after receiving the ball in the box, Diaco did well to hold off his opponent and work some space for an angled drive. Just as it appeared that the goal was at his mercy, Tilovski stepped in to save well with his feet.
South then lost Natsioulas to injury after the skillful flanker was involved in a sickening head clash with Andrew Branov. Natsioulas was replaced by Andrew Bourakis and is doubtful for next week’s clash against Altona.
Sixty-eight minutes in and Diaco had a 25-yard free kick sharply saved by Tilovski with the Blues immediately threatening on the counter when Tsiorlas produced a decent ball from the right that Langerak did superbly well to fist away to safety.
South should’ve went ahead on 71 minutes after a patient move by Albert Park-based club fell to Caldwell who struck a shot on the turn from 10 or so yards out that was gloved by Tilovski. It was a chance that the South marksman should’ve done better with but Tilovkski was once again incredibly sharp with his handling.
Complacency began to trickle into South’s play with a 75th minute corner from Ricky Chillico seeing the South defence fail to convincingly clear. Players were scrambling in the box with the ball eventually falling to Jason Principato who struck from 6 or so yards out only to see his effort cleared off the line by Waterson with the Fawkner players and coach Vanis remonstrating with the Assistant Referee for not flagging to indicate the ball had crossed the goal-line.
For the record, it appeared that Waterson had indeed safely cleared off the line.
South then had two chances to try and score that all important goal and steal the match. The first came in the 81st minute after Diaco had been played in well with a searching ball slightly down the left. The burly forward however failed to use his left foot to shoot on goal, instead preferring to check back and square to the back post on his preferred right foot with the arriving Waterson seeing his effort deflected out for a corner.
Then on 86 minutes, a South corner from the right found an unmarked Nathan Caldwell who did well to rise above the defence to position himself for the header. Caldwell connected well with his effort which seemed destined for the top-right hand corner, but somehow, his effort sailed narrowly over.
South now travels to Paisley Park next week to face the Altona Magic. South have had a poor record against the Magic on their home turf since re-entering the Premier League and will be hard pressed to get the three points which will be absolutely vital in their push for finals inclusion.