South Melbourne rose to second in the ladder with a two-one win over league newcomers Adelaide United at a wet and windy Bob Jane Stadium on Sunday evening.
Adelaide had deserved at least a draw, and could reasonably claim its endeavour warranted all three points on offer. However, South's win came through the unlikely source of giant central defender Ante Kovacavic who scored a double - the first time he has ever done so.
"It's (something) defenders cherish," said Kovacevic after the game. "I don't think I'd scored for about three years," he said. "So I was pretty happy with the first. And to get the second - I just couldn't believe it. It put us up two-nil, and I thought that should be enough to win the game."
Carl Veart scored Adelaide United's solitary reply despite having the better of the larger period in the match.
"Sometimes it is just about getting a result, and this was one of those games where just getting a result was more important than anything," said relieved South Melbourne coach Stuart Munro after the game. "I didn't think the performance was great, but at times we were put under the cosh."
"It certainly was (rough justice tonight)," said United coach John Kosmina. "I think we gave them a lesson in football."
"We were fantastic (in) the first twenty minutes," he said. "There was only one team in it. When (South) scored it was probably the second time they got in our box."
Midway through the first half, South Melbourne took the lead from the most unlikely of sources. Central defender Kovacevic managed to score with a looping header after a South corner was insufficiently dealt with by the under-seige Adelaide United defence. A half-clearance from Boutsianis' corner was snapped up by Marcus Stergiopoulos who crossed in Kovacevic's direction.
The goal had come against the balance of play, with Adelaide United taking the game up to South. South had the advantage of a strong tail-wind and launched long balls from deep positions for the speedy Michael Curcija.
Curcija had broken one offside trap to send in a left-foot shot which went wide, but the possession was mostly with the visitors. There were some shaky moments in the South back four as Ross Aloisi, Carl Veart, and Shane Smeltz kept up the pressure. It seemed to be only a matter of time before Adelaide United would break through.
Adelaide United continued to look the stronger side in the second-half, and man-of-the-match Aurelio Vidmar deserved to level when Veart cleverly set him up with a back-heel. However Vidmar's shot on the turn crashed into the post and away, with South goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic well beaten.
That Kovacevic scored once for South was a surprise. When he scored the second, it was astonishing. Once again its damaging genesis was a corner from Boutsianis, this time struck long past the far-post where Curcija headed it back into the crush of the six-yard box. Kovacevic stooped low to head it into the net.
"Both Kovacevic's goals came from set-pieces. He was up for corners, so he was in position," said Munro.
Curcija could have stretched the lead shortly after when he again beat the offside trap only to see his stretched shot trickle by the far post as Bajic sprinted out of goal to close him down.
Adelaide continued to press despite the driving rain that arrived and sent the crowd in the outer scattering for shelter, and deservedly pulled one back when Veart followed up a ball sent in by Smeltz and converted close in to Galekovic.
As the rain continued to pelt down, Kosmina continued to urge his team, and brought on reinforcements to the attack in his attempt to gain justice from the game.
"We probably could have been a bit more aware in and around the box," said Kosmina. "You can pick little things like that (to criticise) all day long. The fact is that over all, we played some fantastic football."
"(South) was dead lucky to get away with a result. If they had got a draw, they would have been lucky," said Kosmina. "But I'm quite happy with our blokes. If we keep playing like that, we'll start winning a lot more games than we lose."