Monday, 11 August 2008 9:30 AM
By George Kouroumalis
South Melbourne seems destined to miss out on finals action for a second consecutive season after the Blues conceded two late goals to lose 2-0 against a disciplined and hungry Richmond side on Friday night.
In what was dubbed as a six-point game prior to kick-off, South ventured to Richmond with strike duo Nathan Caldwell and Gianni De Nittis missing through injury and suspension. With Ricky Diaco already out injured, South went into the game with only one recognised striker on the team sheet, with youngster Hamlet Armenian expected to carry out the attacking duties.
In contrast, Richmond recalled Richard Cardozo to the starting line-up, with the goal sneak joining his brother Pablo up front to form a dynamic partnership that caused problems for the South defence throughout the entire match.
South started the game brightly with two speculative long range attempts by Fernando failing to trouble Richmond goalkeeper Stuart Webster, with the ball swinging wide of the target and out for a goal kick on both occasions. With vocal support behind them, the away side also came close in the 19th minute, when Fernando played a well-weighted through ball into the path of Hamlet Armenian. With Webster to beat, Armenian scuffed his shot, sending a simple ball into the arms of the prying goalkeeper.
In response, Richmond mustered its first threatening opportunity minutes later when a swinging corner found the head of Marco Kuck at the back post. Kuck then hit a headed ball back toward the six-yard box, causing panic in the South defence. With no defender able to clear the ball to safety, Dimitri Tsiaris muscled his way into the area and slipped an opportunistic strike on goal agonisingly wide of the target to the dismay of the home contingent.
South continued to pile on the pressure and nearly opened the scoring just before the interval, when a lovely run by Goran Zoric culminated in the midfielder skipping past a host of defenders before hitting a firm drive toward the bottom left hand corner. However the shot was cleanly foiled by Webster, who ensured that his side would go into the half time interval on level terms.
South had the first opportunity of the second half, with Fernando once again attempting a speculative long range attempt that flew inches over the bar. Richmond responded almost immediately when former South NSL player George Goutzoulis found his way into the area and within shooting range. With the defence backtracking, Goutzoulis hit a low drive on target, only for the ball to be saved well by Tommi Tomich in the South goal.
Despite the misses, Richmond did manage to find themselves in front in the 75th minute, when some lapse South marking allowed for the ball to fall into the path of Pablo Cardozo just outside the area. With Tomich inches off his line, Cardozo attempted an audacious volley that managed to dip substantially to find the back of the net.
With South unable to create many more chances in response, Cardozo iced the game five minutes later, after the Eagles were awarded a penalty when Goutzoulis was fouled just inside the area. From the resultant penalty, the Foxtel Cup leading goal scorer sent Tomich the wrong way to send his side closer to a finals birth.
The result means that Richmond moves up to third on the Foxtel Cup ladder and due to superior goal difference almost guarantees themselves a finals position. In contrast, South’s finals hopes are almost impossible, with the club needing to win their last two games as well as rely on a magnitude of other results going their way to sneak into the top six. Ironically, the club is also still in danger of being sucked into the relegation zone, however a win against Whittlesea at Bob Jane Stadium next Sunday will confirm the club’s status in the Foxtel Cup in 2009. Kick-off is at 4pm.