Friday, 9 May 2008 12:30 PM
By George Kouroumalis & John Kyrou
South Melbourne will be looking to win two matches in a row when it travels to Epping Stadium to take on the Whittlesea Zebras on Sunday.
In what promises to be an enthralling contest, South will head into the Mother’s Day clash full of confidence after a well-drilled and disciplined performance saw them account for the Richmond Eagles last Sunday at Bob Jane Stadium.
South coach Michael Michalakopoulos will be going back to familiar territory, as he coached and played an integral part in building the Zebras squad that made the Grand Final in 2007. His knowledge of the Whittlesea players will be an important factor throughout the game, with Michalakopoulos keen to get a victory against his old side.
In goals, South will head into the game with captain Dean Anastasiadis (pictured) in goals. At a venue where South has traditionally struggled in the past, the side will be relying on the veteran in goals not only as a shot stopper, but as a strong communicator to his defence and to lead by example out on the field.
South will once again opt for the same back four that performed superbly last weekend to shut out the Richmond forwards. Steven O’Dor and Shane Nunes will once again be given the central defensive positions. Adam Van Dommele will provide the side with a calm and experienced left back, with the former Adelaide United player instrumental in South’s excellent defensive performances of the last month. On the other side of defence, Sam Poutakidis will be asked to slot into the right back position. Both Poutakidis and Van Dommele will however push forward as much as possible in order to cause an extra problem to the Zebras defence as well as provide extra support for the midfielders and forwards alike.
In the middle of the park, South will be without two very important players in Bill Natsioulas and Fernando De Moraes. Natsioulas limped off midway through the opening half last weekend with a leg injury, whilst Fernando will be missing due to being selected in the Futsalroos squad for the AFC championships. Replacing the pair will be young duo Tony La Verde and Benji Vahid. Both youngsters will be keen to solidify their positions in the starting line-up, with La Verde impressing in the multiple appearances he has made in 2008.
The two teenagers will be joined by the experienced vice-captain Rama Tavsancioglu, who has had a superb month of football since being assigned the defensive midfield role. His attack on the ball, clean tackling and work rate has been a feature of his game whilst in the role and Michalakopoulos will be looking for ‘Rama’ to continue his efforts as well as assist his younger team mates. The other vital cog in the midfield area will be Goran Zoric, a player will use his guile and pace to try and exploit the Whittlesea defensive unit.
Up front, South will persist with the combination of Ricky Diaco and Gianni De Nittis. Both players provide the club with a creative and vibrant attacking duo that work well together. Their form last weekend against Richmond justifies an inclusion into this week’s starting line-up, as De Nittis scored the winning goal and Diaco threatened the opposition defence and keeper every time he had the ball.
Also vying for a starting position will be youngster Hamlet Armenian, who will relish the chance to take on his former club on the weekend. Despite not finding the net this season, Armenian has worked extremely hard every time he has made an appearance and has been very unfortunate not to open his scoring account. He will be a danger and will give the Whittlesea defence several headaches when he gets his chance.
South’s opponent will provide the Blues with a resilient opponent that should not be underestimated. The 2007 Grand Finalist boasts experienced campaigners that will make life tough for the South Melbourne side.
One of these players will be Ross Antoniadis in the centre of defence, a player who has made his mark at VPL level over a 10-year period with the Zebras and Altona East. Antoniadis is an old-fashioned centre-back, with the big man quite strong in the air but also exceptional at winning the contested ball on the ground with his aggressive tackling style. He will be a massive obstacle that the South attacking third will need to overcome in order to capture the points.
In the middle of the park, South will need to contend with former player Sebastian Petrovich, who spent time with the club in the old NSL and also part of the 2005 South squad. He is a creative midfielder who will always be looking to help out both his attacking players and defence when needed.
One of these attacking players is Jerry Karpeh who joined the Zebras in the summer from A-League club Perth Glory. In 2007 before joining the Glory, Karpeh was one of main reasons that Floreat Athena won the Western Australia Premier League crown. In a breakout year, not only did Karpeh win the elusive crown with Floreat but he also blitzed the competition to win the WAPL golden boot award, finding the net on 25 occasions in an amazing return. His pace and finishing ability will be something that South will need to monitor and negate.
As a result, Sunday’s game promises to be a cracking contest, with both sides sitting on 12 points and needing the three points on offer. A win for either side will see them push closer to a top six position. Kick-off at Epping is at 5pm.
South Melbourne FC vs Whittlesea Zebras
When: Sunday, May 11th
Where: Epping Stadium
Kick-off: 5.00pm (Under 21s at 3pm)
Projected Starting line-ups
Dean Anastasiadis (GK/C), Sam Poutakidis, Rama Tavsancioglou, Adam Van Dommele, Steven O’Dor, Shane Nunes, Goran Zoric, Tony La Verde, Gianni De Nittis, Benji Vahid, Ricky Diaco
Robert Simeoni (GK), Ross Antoniadis, Steve Martin (C), Mark Vazzocchi, Adilson De Melo (Junior), Conner Molan, Gregory Lombardo, James Sherman, Jerry Karpeh, Ryan O’Hare, Sebastian Petrovic
Head to head (Games since 2005)
Played : 1 (The Whittlesea Zebras were formed in 2007)
South Melbourne : 0
Whittlesea Zebras : 1
Draw : 0
When: Monday, 27 May 2007
Where: Epping Stadium
Score: Whittlesea Zebras 3 defeated South Melbourne 2
Form in 2008 (last 3 games)
South Melbourne: Win, Loss, Win
Whittlesea Zebras: Win, Loss, Loss