Stallions v Souths

Playoff report by Stephen Webb
Marconi-Fairfield v South Melbourne

Neither coach looked particularly pleased after this scoreless and only occasionally interesting match in Sydney.

South Melbourne's Stuart Monro had seen his side keep the home team scoreless. But the visitors had been outplayed.

Marconi's Jean-Paul de Marigny might have been pleased with the overall performance - he said they'd play the same way in Melbourne - but if they couldn't convert chances in front of their home crowd, how would they fare in Melbourne?

Both coaches were unconvincingly optimistic: all they needed was one goal.

A refreshing breeze welcomed the match, but it was still pretty humid on the pitch. The game was poorly attended, because of television coverage and rain that was still falling around town. But even those fans present were not particularly encouraging: more vocal in their criticism than their applause for some, at times, exquisite skills.

Marconi kicked off and Joe Spiteri defied the attention of Marcus Stergiopoulos and Levent Osman. But gave the ball away.

Eric Anabalon won some applause for robbing Simon Storey, Vaughan Coveny was penalised for getting slappy up behind Chad Gibson, and Luke Casserly was good in the air above Coveny.

Simon Bell put in a good tackle against Stergiopoulos, Brendan Renaud was effective against Same Poutakidis, and Spiteri gave Ante Kovacevic and Poutakidis some trouble before struggling too hard and earning a whistle from the ref.

Spiteri again was strong against Kovacevic and this time won a free kick from the left. Renaud crossed and Alex Brosque leaped high in front of goal but headed over.

Young star Michael Thwaite went on a long run and with a bit of luck made it to the South Melbourne penalty area. His shot was blocked by Osman and Brosque had a go at the rebound.

Kovacevic got in a good tackle on Brosque and a Spiteri cross won a corner off Steve Laurie, but Stergiopoulos won the ball when it was played short.

Good work by Nick Carle got Spiteri onto a shot in the left side of the box; the rising ball to the near post was held by Eugene Galekovic who a minute later was well-positioned to catch a shot into his midriff just outside his goal box.

Simon Bell almost had a chance to shoot but was turned away, Brosque got up high again and headed down to Galekovic, and Casserly made a strong tackle on Storey who'd made it into the left corner.

In the 18th minute Stergiopoulos turned quickly and snapped a shot from 20 metres just over the top right corner of Marconi's goal.

Spiteri continued to take a bit of a battering but was winning more free kicks.

Brosque headed the ball back for Spiteri who made a rushed left-foot shot that was blocked on the edge of the area.

In the 24th minute a wonderful tackle by Storey stopped Anabalon from shooting after a rapid sequence of passes between Brosque, Spiteri and Anabalon.

Poutakidis struggled mightily into the right side of the Marconi box and probably felt he deserved a penalty but won a corner which eluded everyone in the box but gave Panopoulos a chance to shoot from the left.

Brosque, Carle and Spiteri did well to get the ball over to Casserly on the right but Casserly served back a rubbish cross.

In the 31st minute Anabalon beat Stergiopoulos and got a cross in from the goal line just behind Spiteri arriving in the goal box.

Casserly hit another useless cross.

Renaud was very strong taking the ball from Stergiopoulos - so strong he had to give up a good break so Stergiopoulos could get attention.

Carle had a snap from 18 metres: no trouble for Galekovic.

Bell was very good evading trouble and feeding Spiteri who couldn't beat Osman in the penalty area and release his shot.

While Stergiopoulos was still off getting his knee strapped, Bell went down hard and had to leave the pitch also. Soon they were both replaced.

In the 40th minute Storey evaded a Casserly tackle on the left, crossed into the box, got the ball back and shot across Michael Turnbull who made a good low save.

Carle was brilliant dancing over the ball defying South tackles before flicking the ball back so it could be squared to Brosque who shot to Galekovic.

Casserly stopped Coveny running into the Marconi box and Anabalon played a good ball to Todd Brodie in the right corner. Brodie couldn't cross past Storey. Anabalon was replaced at half time.

The second half started with Marconi again on the attack, but Osman stole the ball off the toes of a Marconi forward about to shoot.

Con Boutsianis, who had replaced Stergiopoulos, hit a good ball for Storey but Storey was offside.

Boutsianis then robbed Gibson and set Coveny up for a strong shot, well held by Turnbull.

Boutsianis then won a corner off Angelo Costanzo. (Imagine if Boutsianis and Stergiopoulos could have been on together!)

Steve Laurie headed the corner straight up, and Shane Webb ran the ball forward after Carle held off three players on halfway. Webb found Spiteri free on the left but Spiteri hit a poor shot or a poor cross - it was hard to tell.

Storey did some good work on the left of the Marconi area and switched to Poutakidis who crossed back in too hard for Scott Tunbridge to deal with it.

Marconi attacked again, finally getting a shot to the left of goal. Then Spiteri beat Kovacevic but couldn't wrestle his way past Osman.

In the 61st minute Spiteri made a quick turn and shot just to the left of goal.

Renaud found Spiteri down the left. Spiteri crossed to Carle. Carle returned the ball to Spiteri whose shot was stopped by a fine tackle from Tunbridge.

Boutsianis shot to Turnbull after a couple of South Melbourne raids took advantage of some lax Marconi marking. Turnbull then got up well to take a cross heading dangerously toward an unmarked South player at the right post.

Pressure by Osman forced Brosque to shoot wide after good lead-up work by Renaud and Spiteri.

In the 69th minute, Brosque, with some nifty footwork in the box, supplied Carle who sliced his shot just wide. Marconi kept up the pressure and Osman cleared with a desperate tackle.

South Melbourne countered and had a shot, Carle shot one high for Marconi, and South fired one high at the other end.

A good break by Boutsianis got Coveny away into the Marconi area but Casserly was marking too well.

Massimo Murdocca briefly beat Carle near the Marconi goal but Carle and Costanzo combined to drive him away.

The game was deteriorating: both sides took turns to make dreadful mistakes. However, this gave South Melbourne more opportunities to play the ball and more time in the Marconi half.

In the 82nd minute Gibson robbed Storey and got the ball to Spiteri on the right. Spiteri shot into a defender but Carle got onto the rebound and lashed it left of goal.

Then Carle had the ball in front of goal, outside the box. He paused over it as if time was standing still. Then touched to the left and hit a cracker at Galekovic who popped the ball into the air and was fouled by Costanzo charging through.

Coveny almost got on the end of a long through ball into the Marconi box. And that was it. Game over.

Monro said he'd rather be in a winner-take-all situation with a home game coming up. "That's what we planned for and that's what we've got."

He said Paul Trimboli did not play in Sydney because he brought the best squad for the result he wanted. "We've tried various options to get a goal up front. We can't seem to buy a goal at the moment. Today was one of the few games where we haven't created a lot of chances I think the final ball let us down big time."

He said it was now down to just one goal that would win the game and see South Melbourne through.

De Marigny said Marconi did enough to score goals. "It's not like we weren't creating things Overall, in 90 minutes, I think we created plenty of chances to score. I think the important thing is that South Melbourne respect us very highly. It's the first time they've played with a back three."

He said he thought the boys did extremely well. They were very patient and now the pressure is on South Melbourne down there."

He said Marconi were in a good situation. The goal they were looking for would be worth two. "They've got to come out and play some football. Unlike today."