Friday, 16 May 2008 10:55 AM
By John Kyrou
This week the segment takes us back less than six years ago to a match played in the early stages of the 2002/03 National Soccer League season.
Reigning NSL champions Sydney Olympic traveled to Bob Jane Stadium keen to continue the excellent start that they had made in defending their title. Going into the round 7 encounter against their traditional interstate rivals, Olympic was undefeated with four wins and two draws from their opening six matches. On the other hand, South Melbourne had started extremely slowly, with only one win in their opening five encounters. However despite the contrasting form, South went into the match more confident of a result, as Olympic had never beaten the blues at Bob Jane Stadium.
What was to follow was one of the more remarkable games staged in the history of matches played between the two clubs.
The match was barely two minutes old when South opened the scoring. The ball was played down the right flank, where Peter Buljan evaded Olympic captain Ante Juric’s challenge. Buljan’s low cross into the area was flicked into the bottom corner of the goal by new recruit Michael Baird, who had scored in the previous home game against Perth Glory and was fast becoming a fan favourite. Just six minutes later South’s advantage was doubled when Vince Lia’s cross from the right was met by Robert Liparoti at the far post. Liparoti’s square ball in front of the goal found Buljan, who somehow bundled the ball past Clint Bolton with a header of his own.
Olympic were stunned, and were left further embarrassed when Kiwi international Vaughan Coveny put South three up before the quarter-hour. Stand-in captain Steve Panopoulos found space at the edge of the penalty area and he laid the ball off to Coveny, who had made a run on his left side. The big South forward turned inside and sent a powerful right-foot shot low and past Bolton’s near post.
The first half was barely half-complete when Panopoulos himself scored with a lovely shot with his left foot from outside the area. Fausto De Amicis’ cross found Baird, who headed down into the path of Panopoulos. The midfielder’s strike was too powerful for Bolton and proved a further slap in the face for Olympic’s defence, who by this stage were receiving an almighty heckling from the army of South supporters behind Bolton’s goal.
The home supporters urged their team to continue pressing forward, as they sensed a record scoreline about to happen. However this left the South defence slightly exposed, and as a result Olympic managed to pull a goal back. A well-struck Troy Halpin corner found Andrew Packer, who placed his header past Dean Anastasiadis, which left the big South custodian angry at his defence for the lack of marking in the area.
Five goals had already been scored but several more goal-scoring chances were created, as both teams seemingly decided to forget about the notion of defending and instead attacked at any opportunity. Olympic missed two good opportunities to score a second through both Tom Pondeljak and Joel Porter, before South hammered home their fifth for the afternoon. Coveny galloped past Jade North on the left and crossed the ball to Baird, who hit a sweet volley that flew into the top corner of Bolton’s goal.
At 5-1, even the most hardcore Olympic supporters must have thought that their side would give up on the match and just set out to defend in order to not leak any more goals. However to their credit, the away side continued to attack themselves without any fear and scored a second goal as a result. Experienced striker Ante Milicic’s audacious 25 metre lob of Anastasiadis at the end of the half meant that at the halftime interval the scoreboard showed a remarkable seven goals scored in just one half of football.
One would have thought that with South commanding such a strong lead that the second half would only suffer in comparison and with it bring no further changes to the scoreline. However this was not the case, as Halpin brought Olympic to within two goals of the home side with a sharp volley from the edge of the box after the ball was cleverly pulled back from the flank to him.
The home side signaled its intentions to hold on and protect the 5-3 lead when Baird was substituted for defender Steve Iosifidis with twenty minutes remaining. Olympic didn’t care and elected to go for broke and played the rest of the match with a four-man forward line. The move worked brilliantly and Pondeljak’s 30-metre rocket amazingly brought the away side to within one goal of South with five minutes left to play.
By this stage Olympic were all over South and the home supporters were beginning to feel extremely nervous about the possibility of giving up a four goal cushion against one of their most bitter rivals. However with only a minute left in normal time, Coveny was brought down in the area. Coveny got up and hit the resultant penalty straight down the middle of Bolton’s goal, beating the Olympic keeper who had dived to his left. Coveny’s penalty registered South’s sixth goal for the afternoon which finally ended the scoring and ensured that the three points would remain at Bob Jane Stadium in one of the most remarkable games witnessed at the venue.
South’s defence continued to leak goals as it conceded four more the following week at Adelaide City and 37 for the whole season (24 matches played). Unfortunately the strike force did not score as regularly as the defence conceded (36 goals scored) and as a result South missed out on a finals spot by one point. Olympic’s loss to South was only one of its five losses for the regular season, as the Sydney side finished on top of the ladder and made the Grand Final for the second season in a row, again against Perth Glory. This time however the Glory took revenge for their loss the previous season, beating Olympic 2-0.
Round 7, 2002/03
Sunday, November 3, 2002
Venue: Bob Jane Stadium
Referee: Mark Shield
SOUTH MELBOURNE 6-4 SYDNEY OLYMPIC
(Baird 2′, 40′, Buljan 8′, Coveny 13′, 89′ pen, Panopoulos 20′) (Packer 22′, Milicic 44′, Halpin 60′, Pondeljak 85′)
Dean Anastasiadis, Fausto De Amicis, Mehmet Durakovic, Robert Liparoti, Steve Panopoulos, Vaughan Coveny, Peter Buljan (Paul Trimboli 89′), Vince Lia, Nick Tolios, Michael Baird (Steve Iosifidis 71′), Bill Damianos (David Clarkson 63′)
Coach: Danny Wright
Clint Bolton, Paul Kohler (Zenon Caravella 72′), Ante Juric, Tom Pondeljak, Ante Milicic, Troy Halpin, Jade North, Jeromy Harris (Hiroyuki Ishida 67′), Joel Porter, Andrew Packer, Andrew Durante (Mark Byrnes 33′)
Coach: Gary Phillips