Monday, 25 May 2009 10:07 AM
By John Kyrou
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South Melbourne FC stretched its unbeaten run to ten matches after a spirited and fighting comeback saw the side claim a hard fought 2-2 draw against the high-flying Dandenong Thunder at George Andrews Reserve on Saturday evening.
With Heidelberg, Altona, Green Gully and Hume all closing in on South’s hold of second position on the league table, the side travelled to Dandenong intent on securing the three points needed to allow breathing space from the chasing pack. The win would also close Dandenong’s lead over South at the top to five points.
Dandenong went into the match full of confidence after disposing of third-placed Heidelberg United 3-0 at George Andrews Reserve the previous Saturday. The result meant that the Thunder had completed the first round of the 2009 VPL season undefeated, an enormous achievement for the newly-promoted club. Under the guidance of former South coach Stuart Munro, the Thunder were determined not to let second-placed South stop its momentum towards a possible Minor Premiership.
With both sides known for attacking football and high scoring, the scene was set for a classic end-to-end attacking match. However it was all Dandenong in the opening half, with the home side dominating from the kick-off. The South defence did just enough to hold out Dandenong’s constant attacking, but even the most one-eyed of South supporters would have known that the away side would struggle to hold out all game.
It took half an hour but Dandenong finally got the goal that it deserved. A set piece from a free kick saw Veton Korcarevski sneak in unmarked at the far post to comfortably head the ball past a helpless Tommi Tomich. The Thunder were completely in control and should have been at least two goals ahead at halftime had it not been for poor shooting and some desperate South defending. However it did not take long for the home side to double their lead after the break, when a deflection off Colin Quirk from an attempted South clearance saw the ball roll into the net, sending the home supporters wild. The Thunder had a deserved 2-0 lead and it seemed inevitable that the Dandenong unbeaten streak would continue.
Until that stage South had only shown glimpses of a side leading the league in goals scored, with Fernando De Moraes coming closest to scoring after putting a free kick just wide of the goal in the first half. Dandenong’s Stuart Webster had been having a relatively quiet night in goal; however he made a monumental error in picking up a back-pass from one of his defenders to gift South an indirect free kick. Despite having a wall of Thunder players on the goal line in front of him, De Moraes managed to squeeze a shot into the far corner of the goal to hand the away side a lifeline with 13 minutes left. All of a sudden the confidence had risen and a draw seemed possible.
Only minutes later South completed its remarkable comeback. A ball played through to Goran Zoric found the speedster through on goal with only Webster to beat. Webster saved the initial shot but the ball bounced off Zoric’s chest and rolled into the back of the net despite desperate attempted clearances from two Dandenong defenders. The goal sent the away fans behind that goal into a state of delirium, as the team had out of nowhere scored two goals to draw the contest level.
Suddenly South was in complete control of the match, with the Dandenong players and spectators clearly stunned at what had just occurred. Hard-working Gianni De Nittis nearly won the match for South when his turn and shot forced Webster to make an outstanding save at his near post to keep his side level. When the fulltime whistle sounded, the away side was still pressing forward, seeking a winning goal.
Dandenong enjoys its third home match in a row when it entertains the Oakleigh Cannons at George Andrews Reserve next Saturday evening. Kick-off is at 7pm. South Melbourne FC will have its third away fixture in succession when it faces old rival Heidelberg next Sunday at the Olympic Village. A win will extend South’s hold of second spot to five points over the third-placed Bergers. Kick-off is at 4pm.