Monday, 21 April 2008 8:50 AM
By George Kouroumalis
South Melbourne has issued a warning to the rest of the Foxtel Cup teams by producing an outstanding display of fluent and attacking football against the Fawkner Blues on Sunday to run out convincing victors 6-2.
The crowd, which included club legend Paul Trimboli and former Carlton AFL captain Anthony Koutoufides, ventured to Bob Jane Stadium with the expectation that South would get the three points that it so desperately needed. With both teams sitting on six points and both at the foot of the league table, it was imperative that the home side won the fixture.
South were instructed by coach Michael Michalakopoulos to attack from the outset and the players adhered to the instructions immediately.
In the second minute, a well worked move down the right hand side of the park culminated in veteran Sam Poutakidis launching a low cross into the area. With mass confusion in the Fawkner defence, an opportunistic Gianni De Nittis latched onto the ball before sliding the ball into the arms of Pasi Schwalger in the Fawkner goal.
With South in an attacking mood, two long-range efforts by Fernando in the 8th and 11th minutes tested Schwalger, with the big keeper thwarting the Brazilian maestro on both occasions. Fernando had a great opportunity to score in the 15th minute, when some classic interplay between him and Nathan Caldwell saw the Brazilian dart past a couple of stagnant defenders before hitting a swirling drive that dipped but floated wide of the goal at the last minute.
South were dominating play and in the 20th minute Fernando turned provider by peeling off the right hand flank and accepting a switched ball from De Nittis. Fernando then launched a low and solid drive into the six yard box, where Caldwell was waiting. With only Schwalger to beat, Caldwell mis-timed his shot, barely making contact and allowing the keeper to capture the ball with ease.
Thankfully for the home fans, South went a goal ahead only three minutes later. A swinging corner found Shane Nunes waiting at the back post. With all the time in the world, the Western Australian headed an inch-perfect ball across the goal and into the path of De Nittis, who had the easy task of tapping the ball past the helpless Schwalger and into the back of the net.
South was in control and playing good football and went looking for a second goal to establish some breathing space. That goal nearly came in the 31st minute, when a storming run and cross by Poutakidis found Caldwell in the area. With the header from Caldwell seemingly goal bound, an amazing and quite acrobatic reflex save by Schwalger forced the ball past the post and prevented South from doubling its lead.
Against the run of the play, Fawkner leveled the game in the 42nd minute. A lapse in the South defence allowed for an innocuous ball forward to find the feet of the well positioned Joseph Youssef just inside the area. With no defender putting any pressure on him, Youssef turned well and hit a superb strike past Dean Anastasiadis and into the back of the net.
Stung by the equalizer, South went forward immediately and went ahead again just before half time, scoring a goal that was almost identical to the opening goal. Anastasiadis had initially mis-kicked a back pass but South managed to get itself out of trouble and move down the field and win a corner. The corner was swung into the far post and once again into the path of the free Nunes, who hit another solid header across the goal and into the path of De Nittis, who again tapped the ball past the helpless Schwalger.
South came back out after half time wanting to finish the game off as a contest. This was achieved in the 52nd minute when a lovely ball from midfield was played into the path of De Nittis, who had broken away from the Fawkner defence. With Caldwell to his left, De Nittis hit a lovely horizontal ball into the path of the hard working striker, who only had keeper Schwalger to beat. Unlike the opportunity he wasted in the opening half, Caldwell calmly slotted past Schwalger and into the back of the net.
South continued to press forward to punish Fawkner and had a fourth goal in the 59th minute. A sublime flick-on by Caldwell reached the oncoming Bill Natsioulas inside the area. With no defender tracking his run into the area, the midfielder had time to take one touch before slamming the ball past Schwalger, who had yet again been exposed by the poor marking of his back four.
By this point South felt like they could do no wrong and launched attack after attack, sensing that a fifth goal was imminent. This arrived when Fernando stepped up to take a free kick in the 70th minute, after the Blues had committed a foul just outside the area. He curled a low free kick past the outstretched Schwalger to send the crowd into raptures. Substitute Ricky Diaco played a part in the goal by getting in front of the goal and faking a touch to confuse the big Fawkner keeper.
The party atmosphere at Bob Jane Stadium continued in the 82nd minute, when a sublime through-ball by Natsioulas found Diaco in space just inside the area and with no defenders anywhere near the South attacker yet again. Diaco composed himself, took a touch and curled an excellent strike around the keeper to put the sixth goal on a crowded South Melbourne scoreboard.
With the game well and truly won, Fawkner’s Jason Principato popped up with three minutes to go to head home a cross at the back post to give his side their second goal of the contest. It was a calm finish by Principato, who had worked hard all game up forward without any reward. However this day did belong to South, giving their coach Michael Michalakopoulos a memorable first win as senior coach.
South must capitalise on this win when it takes on high-flying Altona Magic next Monday night at 8.15pm at Paisley Park. South has not picked up a single point at Paisley Park since returning to the Foxtel Cup in 2005 and will need to re-produce the form shown against Fawkner in order to get a positive result.