Monday, 31 March 2008 12:46 PM
By John Kyrou & George Kouroumalis
A dominant 20 minute spell in the second half was enough to see South Melbourne overcome a stubborn Preston Lions side at BT Connor Reserve on Sunday.
South entered the clash in indifferent form, having lost their last two games, including a poor home loss the previous week to the AIS. Despite the poor form, South were slightly encouraged by the fact that the club had not lost at BT Connor Reserve since returning to the VPL in 2005.
The away side went into the game with veteran goalkeeper Dean Anastasiadis in goals, with Robert Wynne doing enough against the AIS to be awarded a second consecutive start in the back four. Joining the inexperienced Wynne were Ramazan Tavsancioglu and Steven O’Dor, with the latter being welcomed back into the team after serving a one week suspension. The other component of the back four was Shane Nunes, who was expected to assist O’Dor in the heart of defence to try and thwart any Preston attacking move. Sam Poutakidis was assigned a role on the right hand flank, with the experienced campaigner having the duel role of providing South with an attacking threat down the wings as well as assisting the defence.
In the midfield area, South went into the game with the same trio that commenced the AIS game. Bill Natsioulas and Fernando De Moraes were expected to not only control the midfield area but to also provide attacking options to the side when going forward. The other midfield player was Antonio La Verde, who once again was selected to play in the central midfield slot after an impressive first few weeks at the club.
Up front, Hamlet Armenian was restored to the starting line-up and was partnered with Ricky Diaco, who replaced the injured Gianni De Nittis in the side.
South commenced the game brightly and had the first chance of the game in the second minute through Fernando’s long range effort that flew wide. Minutes later, a sweeping counter attacking move saw La Verde play the ball down the left to Fernando, who launched a low cross into the area only for Preston goalkeeper Lupce Acevski to come off his line and smother the ball and prevent the oncoming Armenian from opening the scoring for the afternoon. South could sense an early goal and continued to press forward at every opportunity. A well constructed move in the 18th minute culminated in Tavsancioglu darting past a few stagnant Preston players before hitting a long range bullet over the bar.
In the 22nd minute, Preston launched their first dangerous chance of the contest when a sublime through ball by Marinos Gasparis was played into the path of veteran Johnny Sapazovski. With only Anastasiadis in front of him, Sapazovski hit a timid shot from just inside the area and into the prying arms of the big South custodian.
In response, South once again pushed forward immediately and through a Fernando effort once again almost found the opening goal from long range. On this occasion the Brazilian maestro cut past Les Anastasiou before hitting a strong and swirling 20 metre attempt into the advertising boards and out for a goal kick.
Preston returned fire and the home side were awarded a free kick only a metre outside the penalty area, after a foul was committed by Tavsancioglu in the 30th minute. With the angle and distance favouring the left footed Tony Sterjovski, the Preston captain took the free kick that beat Anastasiadis before smacking into the cross bar and out for a goalkick.
The home side only needed to wait a few minutes before finally getting the opening goal of the contest. In a bizarre goal mouth scramble, a poorly hit cross failed to be dealt with by the South defence. Anastasiadis, in his 150th league game for South Melbourne, looked to be fouled as he tried to punch the ball to safety. The ball fell to the feet of the waiting Nicholas Schwal around 8 yards out from goal and he comfortably slotted the ball into the open net to give Preston the lead.
South managed to have the last attempt on goal before the break, when a cross from the left hand side by Fernando was driven low into the near post. With a host of South players free inside the six yard area, Anastasiou put in a desperate lunging tackle that knocked the ball just inches wide of the post and out for a corner kick.
In a surprising move at half time, both Natsioulas and Armenian were sacrificed, despite both having had decent games. They were replaced by the speedy Goran Zoric and Nathan Caldwell.
South came out in the second half in a similar fashion to the first, attacking the Preston side from the outset. A dashing run by Poutakidis down the right hand side saw the ball find its way into the area. With defenders hanging off him, Diaco somehow hit a shot on target, but Acevski was on hand to easily catch the incoming shot. Diaco once again proved dangerous in the 58th minute after finding space just outside the area. After taking a touch he then hit a stinging volley onto the target. Unfortunately for the South side, the ball was captured once again by Acevski.
Preston had a chance to double their advantage in the 64th minute, when a nice run by Gasparis was cut short just outside the area, with the midfielder fouled by O’Dor. With the previous free kick striking the cross bar, Sterjovski stepped up and hit yet another cracking free kick towards goal with his left foot. To his disappointment, the ball floated inches wide of the target and over for a goal kick, despite looking goal bound.
With time appearing to be running out and after a period of continually turning over possession, the away fans were rewarded for making the trip to Preston when South equalised in the 71st minute. A sweeping counter attack saw the ball fall to the feet of Poutakidis on the right hand side of the area. Poutakidis launched a inch perfect low cross into the path of Zoric, who slammed the ball into the back of the net to make the score 1-1.
South had only been on level terms for 90 seconds before another foray forward saw Caldwell gain possession just inside the area. The much maligned striker somehow got past a couple of defenders before slotting a lovely shot past the helpless Acevski in the Preston goal to make the score 1-2 and complete a remarkable turnaround by South.
In the 79th minute, Preston had a chance to get back onto level terms after a speculative long range effort by Gasparis fizzed past the right hand goal post and out for a goal kick.
With South in control of the midfield area and the game in general, a final foray forward for the away side saw Diaco let loose in acres of space. Diaco had been craving a goal all afternoon but was superbly denied by Acevski, who saved his side once again to keep them in the game.
The final chance of the game fell to Preston, but once again a long range effort by Gasparis failed to land on the target and floated well wide of a relieved Anastasiadis, who celebrated his 150th game with a memorable win against the Lions.
South jump to 9th and are only two points outside of the top six, with a huge game next week against Green Gully at Bob Jane Stadium. Kick off is at 4pm and all fans are encouraged to get behind the side as it strives to get itself back up to the upper echelons of the table.