Tuesday, 25 March 2008 9:40 AM
By George Kouroumalis
A wasteful South Melbourne has been defeated by the AIS 0-2 in their Easter Monday clash at Bob Jane Stadium.
Going into the game, South coach John Anastasiadis was forced to make a couple of changes to the starting line-up, with the suspension of Steven O’Dor and the injury to Adam Van Dommele, who also missed out on the match.
Replacing the two in the back four were vice captain Ramazan Tavsancioglu and youngster Robert Wynne, who was looking to impress with a rare starting eleven position given to him. Wynne was instructed to play in the central defensive position, an area in which he was given an opportunity to play in throughout the pre-season competition in January.
South commenced the game as the more aggressive of the two sides, launching an early raid on the AIS goal in the fourth minute. A storming run on the left hand flank by Goran Zoric finished with the speedster launching his shot wide of the target. Minutes later, South had yet another opportunity to take the lead, only for another Zoric run and cross being headed over the bar by Hamlet Armenian.
In response the AIS showed their speed and quality in a sweeping counter attack move, with the ball ending up at the feet of exciting winger Kofi Danning. Danning received the ball on the right hand flank, cut back into the centre of the park, darted past a host of South defenders as if they were witches hats and hit a swinging left footed drive just wide of the target.
In the 23rd minute Danning continued to pester the South Melbourne defence. On this occasion, the winger opted to launch an early cross into the box, beating Sam Poutakidis on the right hand side. With the South defence poorly positioned, Jason Naidovski rose above all defenders and slammed a well struck header inches over the cross bar.
In the 33rd minute, South had a golden chance to take the lead after a swinging corner by Bill Natsioulas was met by Shane Nunes just outside the six yard box. With no-one around him, Nunes hit a timid header into the prying arms of the AIS keeper Mark Birghitti.
South thought it had received the lifeline it needed in the 43rd minute after an inviting run into the area by Gianni De Nittis saw the striker fouled just inside the area. With the failure of the AIS player to win the ball, the referee awarded a penalty, much to the disgust of the AIS defenders.
With all South fans up on their feet in anticipation, Fernando hit his penalty to the right hand side of the goal, beating Birghitti who dived to his left hand side. Unfortunately though for the Brazilian and for the blue and whites, his shot swung past the right hand goal post and out for a goal-kick.
In an attempt to rectify his earlier error, Fernando had the final opportunity of the opening half in the 45th minute, when he recovered a loose ball in the middle before running unmarked and launching a drive from 25 yards out. The goal-bound strike was superbly collected by keeper Birghitti, who ensured that his side would go into the game on even terms.
South had numerous opportunities to take the lead in the early stages of the second half, with both Fernando and Natsioulas spooning chances into the arms of Birghitti, after both hit timid shots onto the target.
With the home side being so wasteful in front of goal, the determined AIS side were intent on punishing South and did so in the 56th minute, when a ball was floated into the path of the ever reliable youngster Naidovski. Naidovski, who is tipped to be the next big thing in Australian football, made room before latching onto a cross in typically deadly fashion to give his side the 0-1 lead.
South continued to push forward in an attempt to equalise, but it seemed as if there was no spark or luck for the home side. A sweeping move by the home side in the 73rd minute appeared to be the last major effort. A lovely lay-off ball by substitute Nathan Caldwell found Hamlet Armenian in space with only the keeper to beat. To the dismay of the home support, Armenian completely fluffed the chance, spooning the ball over the bar and into the terraces behind the goals.
From that point on the AIS had all the play and should have doubled their advantage in the 75th minute. A stunning counter attack saw the ball strike the upright, before falling into the feet of Naidovski, with Anastasiadis on the deck. A heroic lunge on the goal line by Shane Nunes thwarted the shot on goal and breathed some life back into the lackluster home side.
However, despite the finest efforts of the South defence, a piece of Naidovski brilliance iced the game only two minutes later when he scored one of the goals of the season from 30 yards out. Naidovski gathered possession and launched a wonder strike on goal that flew past the helpless Anastasiadis and off the post into the goal for 0-2.
South now sit 12th on the table with only one win out of the opening five rounds. The matches do not get easier for South, with the next game being a tough trip to BT Connor Reserve to face Preston in one of the big derbies of the VPL season. The match is on Sunday and kicks off is at 3pm.