Tuesday, 10 June 2008 10:22 AM
By George Kouroumalis
A superb defensive effort by Western Suburbs has seen the Foxtel Cup strugglers hold South Melbourne to a 0-0 draw at Ralph Reserve on Sunday.
South came into the game on the back of a professional away win against Coburg and were looking for a consecutive win away from home to push closer towards a top six position. Suburbs on the other hand were continuing to gradually push to move out of the relegation zone on the table, with the club playing a more disciplined and hard-working brand of football under new coach Ken Murphy.
With this in mind, both teams came out quite tentatively initially, as it was evident that both sides were wary of conceding an early goal.
In the 18th minute, some lovely interplay between Scott MacNicol and Stuart Kelly culminated in MacNicol playing the ball into the path of striker Nathan Caldwell. After a less than ideal first touch, Caldwell was able to turn his shot into the prying arms of goalkeeper Stepjan Gal, who grasped the ball without any problems. South continued to push forward, with both ex-South player Arthur Tsonis and Terry Antoniadis thwarting these forays forward on just about every occasion.
South had another opportunity to score in the 34th minute, when a loose ball was deflected to the waiting MacNicol just outside the area. However MacNicol stuttered momentarily before hitting his timid shot into the arms of Gal, who once again was forced to make a simple save.
Western Suburbs had their first real chance of the match in the 42nd minute, when an inviting cross from the right appeared to have found Serkan Ozkuz open at the back post. With only new South Melbourne goalkeeper Tommi Tomich to beat, Ozkuz mistimed his jump at the ball and only managed to cushion his header directly at the keeper.
With the first half coming to a close, South had one last chance when a steaming run by Hamlet Armenian down the right hand flank saw the former Whittlesea player beat defender John Cvetanovski and hit a low cross into the area. With Gal stuck on the spot, the ball found Gianni De Nittis open in the area. Unfortunately for De Nittis, the ball bounced awkwardly off the bumpy pitch, catching the well-positioned forward on the shin before trickling through to the thankful Gal.
South continued to pile on the pressure in the second half without much reward. Long-range attempts by both De Nittis and Fernando failed to go close to finding the back of the net and more opportunities were wasted. South came closest to scoring in the 65th minute, when a well-weighted Fernando free kick found the head of the advancing Steven O’Dor. With the entire goal face to aim for, the big centre back’s header floated just over the bar and out for a goal kick.
With South seemingly unable to score, Western Suburbs could sense a counter-attacking goal to win the game and they came close in the 72nd minute. A sublime ball over the top of the South defence by Tomi Razov found ex-South striker Vas Kalogeracos in space. With only Tomich to beat, Kalogeracos sliced his shot well wide of the target.
South’s final chance of the game came in the 87th minute after a MacNicol cross from the right hand side was poorly punched away by goalkeeper Gal. With the keeper out of position, the ball fell into the path of De Nittis, who hit a volley well over the bar. That would be the final chance for both sides, ensuring that each club would walk away from the game with a point, South’s first draw for the 2008 season.
Next week, Western Suburbs must travel to Altona on Saturday night and try to continue the fighting form shown against South. Meanwhile, South hosts the Oakleigh Cannons in a big derby fixture on the Sunday. Kick-off is at 4pm at Bob Jane Stadium.