Monday, 18 May 2009 3:19 PM
By John Kyrou (Photo by Paul Touliatos)
South Melbourne FC stretched its unbeaten run to nine matches following the 1-1 draw away to Sunshine George Cross on Sunday afternoon. The result also meant that the Blues hold outright second position on the league table.
The trip to Chaplin Reserve was never going to be an easy one, as South had only recorded one victory at the venue since returning to the Victorian Premier League in 2005. In addition, Sunshine went into the match having only lost once at home, with that loss being against the undefeated league leaders Dandenong.
The poor condition of the field was not beneficial to South’s usual style of play and as a result the team had to resort to playing the long ball constantly. This made the afternoon difficult for the forwards in Gianni de Nittis and Goran Zoric, who had to make aerial challenges against the huge George Cross centre-backs.
Sunshine opened the scoring midway through the first half, when a South attacking move was broken down. The ball streamed up the other end, where Johnny Sapazovski got onto the end of a cut-back and coolly netted past Tommi Tomich. The goal was a just reward for Sapazovski, who just a minute earlier hit a volley from outside the area that smashed the crossbar and stayed out.
The goal woke South up instantly. The away supporters lifted in chanting, urging the team to get back into the match and the players responded with a goal straight away. De Nittis was put through on goal and he made no mistake in levelling up the contest, despite the fierce protests from the Sunshine players and supporters that De Nittis was offside when the ball was played through to him.
Shortly after, it was the turn of the South players to complain, after Zoric looked to have been fouled in the area but the penalty claim was waved away by the referee. Zoric was then put through on goal but had his final shot cleared off the line after he had rounded Martin John in the Sunshine goal.
In the second half, South won a free kick just outside the area. De Nittis stepped up and hit a wonderful curling shot that produced an outstanding fingertip save from John. Despite enjoying large amounts of possession, South were restricted in creating genuine scoring chances thanks to resolute defending by Sunshine.
The Georgies nearly stole all three points themselves towards the end of the match. Tomich was forced into making a good save at his near post and then another shot that beat him was cleared off the line by Rhodri Payne. Sunshine did eventually find the back of the net a second time; however the goal was disallowed by the linesman for offside. The final whistle was met with disappointment for some of the away fans; however the result was overall pleasing considering the absences of Vaughan Coveny and Joseph Youssef, plus because of the condition of the pitch.
South’s next match is undoubtedly the match of round 12, as the Blues travel to George Andrews Reserve to take on the undefeated league leaders Dandenong Thunder. South will be looking for revenge after the newly-promoted Thunder shocked all with a 0-1 win at Bob Jane Stadium in the opening round of the season. The Georgies will be looking to continue their good home form as they entertain rivals Green Gully at Chaplin Reserve next Sunday in the Maltese derby.