Thursday, 10 April 2008 9:33 AM
By John Kyrou
With 49 years of history, South Melbourne has certainly provided its fans and the footballing community with some fantastic memories. In this new segment on smfc.com.au, a classic match from the past is remembered.
With former South player Michael Michalakopoulos (pictured right) taking over the coaching reigns from club legend John Anastasiadis this week, it is appropriate to begin with a match that the new South coach was involved in as a player. Even though Michalakopoulos was at the club for only three seasons (1989/90 to 1991/92) he was involved in some classic matches that will always be remembered by the fans.
Coming off the 1990/91 NSL championship, South were optimistic of going back-to-back in 1991/92. Everything seemed to be going to plan as the club finished the regular season in third place. Consistency was needed in the finals series, something that South had struggled with throughout the season. Although South did well to win 13 of the 26 games, it also registered eight losses. A solid 0-2 victory over Sydney United at the Croatian Sports Centre in the final round of the season meant that South had to go back to Sydney for the Qualifying Final against Sydney Olympic, a game that they simply had to win to ensure both bragging rights over their rivals as well as a smoother progression in the finals series.
Aside from the huge contingent of South fans taking over the Parramatta Stadium stands and drowning out the chants from the Olympic supporters, the match will always be remembered for the opening goal that was scored by Danny Wright just before halftime. A cross into the area by Mike Petersen found Kimon Taliadoros, who flicked his header over to Wright. A fantastic volley by Wright roared into the bottom left corner of the goal and through a small hole in the net. It was a clear goal and with South players pointing to the small hole that the ball had gone through, referee John Fraser eventually awarded the goal. Commentating on SBS Television, the late Eddie Thompson remarked “that’s a classic…I’m sure Danny will tell his kids in years to come about how he burst the net in the final at Parramatta Stadium.”
The pressure by Olympic in the second half was reasonably well dealt with by the South defence, marshaled by veteran Steve Blair. With four minutes of regular time left and with Olympic throwing more men forward in search of an equaliser, South scored a second to kill the game off and ensure a famous finals win. An excellent defensive header by Paul Wade found substitute Michalakopoulos, who shrugged off his opponent and set Paul Trimboli loose on the counter attack. With Michalakopoulos on his right and Taliadoros on his left, Trimboli chose to set up Michalakopoulos, who from the edge of the area shot to the far corner and under Gary Meier’s body for the sealing goal.
South now had the chance to ensure a Grand Final berth courtesy of that fantastic win, however the lack of consistency throughout the regular season came back to haunt the club during the rest of the finals campaign. An unlucky 5-3 penalty shoot-out loss in the Major Semi Final against Melbourne Croatia and a 0-2 defeat by Adelaide City in the Preliminary Final saw South miss the chance to claim the championship for the second year in a row.
1991/92 NSL Qualifying Final
Sunday, April 12, 1992
Venue: Parramatta Stadium, Sydney
Referee: John Fraser
SYDNEY OLYMPIC 0-2 SOUTH MELBOURNE
(Wright 42′, Michalakopoulos 86′)
Gary Meier, David Barrett, Andrew Bernal, Ned Zelic, Robbie Hooker, Grant Lee, Gary Phillips, Robert Ironside, Pablo Cardozo (Steve Refenes 70′), Abbas Saad, Tim Bredbury
Coach: Mick Hickman
Bruce MacLaren, Paul Fernandes, Steve Blair, Mehmet Durakovic, Danny Wright, Paul Wade, Mike Petersen, Harry Micheil (Gary Hasler 78′), Kimon Taliadoros, Paul Trimboli, Con Boutsianis (Mike Michalakopoulos 80′)
Coach: Ferenc Puskas