Monday, 23 February 2009 10:44 AM
By John Kyrou
South Melbourne FC completed 2009 pre-season preparations in the best possible way by defeating rivals Heidelberg United 3-0 in the final of the Hellenic Cup on Saturday afternoon.
Heidelberg had enjoyed a rare period of domination over South in recent years, taking four points off the blues in the 2007 season and then defeating South in both home & away matches in 2008. The Bergers went into the match as reigning Hellenic Cup champions and having beaten Lalor Florina in the North/West semi final. South went into the match on the back of a thrilling 3-2 win over the Oakleigh Cannons in the South/East semi final, with a Vaughan Coveny goal in the last minute of extra time winning the tie for the lakeside club.
Heidelberg began the match the stronger of the two sides, winning several corners but failing to make any use of their dominance. Their best chance came from a low shot from the right that beat South goalkeeper Tomi Tommich at his near post, but luckily the ball hit the side netting and stayed out. Despite starting slowly and nervously, South eventually got into the game and created several opportunities of their own. Gianni De Nittis went close, forcing a good save from Heidelberg’s goalkeeper after a lovely cut-back ball from Goran Zoric.
Vaughan Coveny, who will complete a personal milestone of 100 South Melbourne goals if he can score just three goals in the upcoming season, showed his class before halftime when his shot put South into the lead. The ball fell to his feet at the edge of the area and the big Kiwi hit a lovely shot with his left foot, with the ball flying across the face of the Heidelberg goal and into the bottom corner of the far post. The goal was almost identical to the effort that Coveny scored in the previous week against Oakleigh.
From there, South completely dominated the match and should have been 2-0 up before the break, however a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping kept the score at just 1-0. That changed shortly after the re-start, when a Bergers foray forward was stopped by South, who quickly surged forward in a counter-attack. An excellent ball played over the Bergers defence found Zoric on the left hand side. With an acre of space to run into, Zoric charged towards goal, dummied the keeper then passed the ball across to the incoming De Nittis, who had the simple task of tapping the ball into the empty net.
With this 2-0 lead, South did not want to make the mistake of slacking off like the previous week, when Oakleigh scored two quick goals to get back into the contest. Fernando De Moraes made sure that would not happen against the Bergers, whilst living up to the saying “saving the best for last” with a goal of high class that killed the game off. Zoric found himself one-on-one with the keeper but his effort was spoiled. The ball fell to De Moraes outside of the penalty area. The Futsalroo had the composure and the time to stop, assess where to place his shot, then hit a beautiful curling effort which sailed into the top far right corner of the net, leaving the Bergers keeper completely rooted to the spot.
Despite the match being over as a contest, South were keen on keeping a clean sheet. Coach Michael Michalakopoulos substituted Tommich for youngster Andrew Sfetkopoulos, giving the ex-Altona Phoenix player time in between the sticks. Heidelberg’s only serious chance was a shot that hit the post but apart from that the Bergers were reduced to long-range shooting that was comfortably handled by the South defence.
Zoric was named as player of the match, and captain Rama Tavsancioglu spoke of the trophy “hopefully not being the only trophy that we will win this season.” The Hellenic Cup triumph was South’s third, after beating Yarraville Glory 2-0 in 1984 and Oakleigh 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw after extra time in 2007.
South’s first match is against newly promoted Dandenong Thunder at Bob Jane Stadium on Sunday 1st March, kick-off at 6pm. Supporters are strongly encouraged to come out in force to make sure that the team gets its 50th year underway in style.