1998 National Soccer League Playoff results
1997-98 Season Playoff Series Matches
written by Thomas Esamie

The top six teams of the regular season meet in matches as shown in home and away legs. Matches marked '1', '2' and '3' are single elimination games, winner of Match 3 is crowned Champion of the 1997-98 season.

South Melbourne v Carlton --------winner-----------------------3___Grand Final
                      \____loser________________              /
Ad City v Wollongong ----winner___              /
Sydney Utd v Marconi _____winner__/

Grand Final Match, winner becomes champion
Played (16/05/1998) Olympic Park
Referee : E Brazzale, Crowd : 16000
South Melbourne
Michael Petkovic, Steve Iosifidis, Fausto DeAmicis, Con Blatsis, David Clarkson, Steve Panopoulos, Paul Trimboli, Bill Damianos, Goran Lozanovski (Vaughan Coveny 74), Tansel Baser, John Anastasiadis (Con Boutsianis 85)
Goals : Anastasiadis 9, Boutsianis 87
2 - 1 Carlton SC
Dean Anastasiadis, Robert Trajkovski, Sean Douglas, Kresimir Marusic, Lubomir Lapsansky, Andy Vlahos (Adrian Cervinski 65), Simon Colosimo, John Markovski, David Cervinski (Marcus Stergiopoulos 78), Mark Atkinson, Marco Bresciano
Goal : Stergiopoulos 78
First and foremost this was a brilliant game. Considering the drivel which only hours later served as an FA Cup final it speaks volumes about the quality of the teams involved here. Sadly the volumes spoken about the fans, in particular those of South Melbourne, will hang like a cloud over this game in much the same way that the smoke from innumerable flares cast their shadow on the field. Take this in contrast with the Grand Final of the previous year....well back to the game. South Melbourne opened with a flourish, and creating 3 excellent chances. One of them went in and, amusingly, it came from a Carlton corner. The corner was taken short but while the recipient (I forget who) tried to make space for a shot from the edge of the box he was tackled and the ball broke to Trimboli who set off to the other end of the field. Anastasiadis received the pass, was tackled and the ball came to DeAmicis. DeAmicis committed the keeper and then passed the ball to the keepers brother, John, who scored on an empty net. Then the flares came.....ho hum. Goran Lozanovski distinguished himself with *2* whopping *40* metre kicks at goal from free kicks near the centre circle. I don't know where he's been hiding these beauties but the first thudded into the crossbar, almost leading to a second goal, and the next was caught by the keeper who had moved across just in time. On 17 minutes Carlton briefly believed they had an equaliser when Petkovic couldn't hold the ball as Markovski backed into him. As Markovski turned the ball was dislodged from Petkovic's grasp by Markovski's elbow and trickled into the goal. The replays indicated a South Melbourne arm just prior to that, it looked accidental but certainly there are grounds for question here. From that moment on Carlton were more or less camped in Souths half of the field and played catchup football, but well. All their industry didn't actually lead to much trouble for the Souths keeper and therein lay the problem. South Melbourne defended exceedingly well and in fairness in most countries they would have been declared champions 4 weeks ago when they topped the ladder after the regular season. Eventually Carlton did get their goal, deservedly so, and it fell to Stergiopoulos with his first touch. It began with Marusic and his back to goal inside the penalty area. He fed the ball off to Trajkovski on the flank whose cross was laid off by Bresciano into the path of Stergiopoulos. Marcus then just ran into the shot and slammed the ball into the net from outside the area. After that it looked suspiciously like we would need the services of extra time, but the match was somewhat controversially settled in regulation. From deep inside the Souths half Paul Trimboli launched a long ball in Boutsianis' direction, the latter having the defender Douglas in close attendance. Douglas got in front of Boutsianis and appeared to be pushed to the ground before Boutsianis made off with the ball and beat the chasing defenders and the exposed keeper for the winner. Herein lies the problem with finals, over a season these kinds of events will even themselves out, in one match such an event can, and did, decide a championship.
Match report by David Marshall
Comments on the events and game by Various

Preliminary Final, loser eliminated, winner into Grand Final
Played (10/05/1998) Olympic Park, Melbourne
Referee : S Micallef, Crowd : 3672
Dean Anastasiadis, Robert Trajkovski, Kresimir Marusic, Lubomir Lapsansky (Marcus Stergiopoulos 90), Andrew Vlahos, Simon Colosimo, John Markovski, David Cervinski, Mark Atkinson, Marco Bresciano, Adrian Cervinski (Alex Josifovski 80)
Goal : Bresciano 90+
1 - 0 Marconi-Fairfield
Ante Covic, Mark Babic, Domenic Longo, Luke Casserly (Christian Care 81), Darren McDonald, Zeljko 'Sean' Babic, Francis Awaritefe, Brendan Renaud, Pan Keun Kim, Brad Maloney, Vlado Zoric
The winner of this game gets a shot at the championship against South Melbourne, the loser gets to finish the season. So it was inevitable that this was a tight game would fray the tattered nerves of the respective fans but did little to inspire the casual observer. Darren McDonalds long range volley which rocked the crossbar was the most noteworthy chance of the first half but Carlton looked generally better, yet Marconi held on. As the second half wore on Carlton were pressing ever harder and despite a number of good chances remained level on 0-0. Other sides might have been frustrated by such a lack of reward, well I'm sure Carlton was frustrated too but in the end they got the win they probably deserved. Just as the prospect of sudden death extra time loomed large Trajkovski switched the ball to Marusic in midfield. The latter took the ball down the right flank and centred the ball for the charging Bresciano. Bresciano received the ball just outside the 'D' of the penalty box, beat a tackle and shot truly to score the games only goal and send Carlton to the rematch with South Melbourne.
Match report by David Arnold
Match report by Markian Jaworsky

Minor Semi-Final, loser eliminated, winner into Preliminary Final
Played (02/05/1998) Parramatta Stadium
Referee : G Connolly, Crowd : 8646
Ante Covic, Luke Casserly, Michael Smith, Pan Keun Kim, Domenic Longo, Brendan Renaud, Darren McDonald (Christian Care 79), Brad Maloney, Vlado Zoric, Sean Babic (Song Chul Yoon 87), Francis Awaritefe
Goals : Awaritefe 61, Maloney 66
2 - 1 Wollongong City
Brett Hughes, Sebastian Sinozic, Robert Stanton, George Souris, Alvin Ceccoli, Matthew Horsley, Anthony Surjan (Noel Spencer 87), Sasho Dimoski, Scott Chipperfield, Tony Perinich (Esala Masi 87), Kosta Salapasidis
Goal : Ceccoli 71
It was a tight game, but the newcomers to finals football paid for a lack of experience despite, on the strength of the season, being a better team. Both sides had good scoring opportunities, Hughes and Covic earning their money as goalkeepers for their respective sides. Marconi began their scoring move through a run from the back by Michael Smith. That particular movement broke down but in the ensuing play Brendan Renaud crossed the ball low into the 6 yard box where Awaritefe got in front of his marker to sidefoot the ball into the roof of the net. In a remarkably similar move a cutback by Zoric into the path of Maloney also ended up in the back of the net to secure a 2-0 lead for Marconi. Wollongong did get a goal back, indeed an outrageous strike from outside the _side_ of the penalty box by Alvin Ceccoli to the near post, but it did not inspire Wollongong the way it might have. Perinich came close to pushing the game into extra time but Marconi too could have extended their lead with Wollongong desperately seeking the equaliser.

Major Semi-Final, loser into Preliminary Final, winner into Grand Final
1st leg Played (26/04/1998) Optus Oval
Referee : B Hugo, Crowd : 6767
Dean Anastasiadis, Sean Douglas, Con Anthopoulos, Kresimir Marusic (Alex Josifovski 72), Andrew Vlahos, Simon Colosimo, John Markovski, David Cervinski, Mark Atkinson (Vincent Grella 62), David Della Rocca (Lubomir Lapsansky 46), Marco Bresciano
Goal : Markovski 90+
1 - 2 South Melbourne
Michael Petkovic, Fausto De Amicis, Nick Orlic, Con Blatsis, David Clarkson, Steve Panopoulos, Paul Trimboli (Con Boutsianis 80), Bill Damianos, Goran Lozanovski (Vaughan Coveny 67), Tansel Baser, John Anastasiadis (Michael Curcija 76)
Goals : Trimboli 25, Anastasiadis 35
After the 5-0 Carlton handed to Souths just before the playoffs you might have expected the game to go the other way, but this was a full strength Souths side who were determined to make the grand final first time. Souths were denied an early penalty, but got a free kick instead and I have no idea how the wickedly curling shot was kept out. On 25 minutes some scrambling attack was eventually rewarded with a goal to Paul Trimboli to whom the ball came with a man injured on the goalline keeping him onside. Dean Anastasiadis had kept his brothers attempts at goal out twice in succession but on 35 minutes John had the last laugh when he ran free of the defence and buried the ball in Dean's top left corner for a comfortable 2 goal lead. John Markovski's late goal kept Carlton hopes alive for the second leg thanks to Cervinski's looping cross which was met by Markovski's head for a similarly looping header eluding Petkovic but not the grasp of the net.
Match report by Alan Clark
2nd leg Played (03/05/1998) Lakeside Stadium
Referee : E Lennie, Crowd : 14850
South Melbourne
Michael Petkovic, Steve Iosifidis, Fausto De Amicis, Con Blatsis, David Clarkson, Steve Panopoulos, Paul Trimboli (Michael Curcija 90), Bill Damianos, Goran Lozanovski (Vaughan Coveny 56), Tansel Baser, John Anastasiadis (Con Boutsianis 74)
Goals : Lozanovski 13
1 - 0 Carlton
Dean Anastasiadis, Robert Trajkovski, Sean Douglas, Con Anthopoulos (sent off 89), Kresimir Marusic, Lubomir Lapsansky, Andrew Vlahos (Adrian Cervinski 61), Simon Colosimo, Vincent Grella (Marco Bresciano 53), John Markovski, David Cervinski (Marcus Stergiopoulos 83)
The opening goal of the game fell to Lozanovski when a deep, looping cross by Damianos was not firmly dealt with by the Carlton defence and the loose ball was swooped upon by Lozza who smashed the ball into the net and then did a little Travolta SNF routine by the corner flag. Marusic's glancing header was as close as Carlton came to a first half equaliser. Infact it was about as close as Carlton got all game long. Late in the game South Melbourne broke free looking for that second goal that is always nice to have. However the move was interrupted when Souths old boy Anthopoulos brought down the attacking player which was probably worthy of a red card in itself but thanks to an earlier yellow card he now had a pair and walked.
Match report by Alan Clark

Elimination Final, loser eliminated, winner into Minor Semi-Final
1st leg Played (19/04/1998) Brandon Park
Referee : S Micallef, Crowd : 10954
Wollongong City
Brett Hughes, Alvin Ceccoli, Robert Stanton, Matthew Horsley, Anthony Surjan (Noel Spencer 82), Sasho Dimoski (Raymond Younis 89), Scott Chipperfield, George Souris, Tony Perinich, Sebastian Sinozic, Kosta Salapasidis (Esala Masi 86)
Goals : Perinich 56, Salapasidis 83, 86
3 - 0 Adelaide City
Jason Petkovic, Bradley Armour, Mark Yates (Travis Dodd 82), Milan Ivanovic, Alex Tobin, Angelo Costanzo, Damian Mori, Dino Mennillo (Michael Brooks 40), John Gibson, Kris Trajanovski (Bradley Hassell 71), Scott Thomas
Adelaide City are _the_ team when it comes to finals football. Yet they were given a right old touchup by the home side who are new to this whole end of season stuff. Infact it could have been worse when Mark Yates' tackle inside the area on one of the Wollongong forwards was judged to have been outside because the momentum of the fall carried both players over the line. So the sides remained scoreless for the first half. Tony Perinich benefitted from a run down the right by Matthew Horsley and the latters cross to the near post was met by the formers head just before Petkovic could arrive to intervene. Had he stayed on his line Petkovic would have had no problems....decisions, decisions. Adelaide's best chance came when Sinozic drew a top class save out of Brett Hughes when a cross was meant to be put behind by the defender but instead the ball was heading just inside the post. A midfield mistake put Adelaide further behind when Wollongong capitalised on the mistake and Surjan ended up playing the ball across goal and Salapasidis timed his run to perfection to arrive at speed and poke the ball home. A few minutes later a minor scuffle broke out between Salapasidis and Tobin (mainly) when the latter fouled the former and Tobin got a yellow card into the bargain. Then Ivanovic fouled too, this time within range and although Ceccoli's shot was saved, it was not held by Petkovic and Salapasidis nipped in again to score Wollongong's 3rd.
2nd leg Played (26/04/1998) Hindmarsh Stadium
Referee : E Brazzale, Crowd : 4497
Adelaide City
Jason Petkovic, Mark Yates (Nick Sabljak 65), Milan Ivanovic, Alex Tobin, Angelo Costanzo, Damian Mori, Bradley Hassell, John Gibson, Michael Brooks, Travis Dodd (Bradley Armour 72), Scott Thomas
Goals : Brooks 17, Sabljak 79
2 - 2 Wollongong City
Brett Hughes, Alvin Ceccoli, Robert Stanton, Matthew Horsley, Anthony Surjan, Sasho Dimoski, Scott Chipperfield, George Souris, Tony Perinich, Sebastian Sinozic (Raymond Younis 88), Kosta Salapasidis (Esala Masi 75)
Goals : Ceccoli 56, Salapasidis 75
Adelaide threatened a comeback to keep their finals campaign alive, Mori hitting the bar early. Then after 17 minutes a Costanzo corner was put in at the near post, Brooks was credited with the goal which no doubt makes Sinozic happy. Ivanovic was denied a rare goal by a superb Hughes save, keeping the score to 1-0 at halftime. After the resumption Wollongong hit back with a shot by Ceccoli which didn't appear to be hit very hard but snuck by Petkovic anyway and credit to Ceccoli with persevering with what seemed like a lost cause. The home team then went behind when a Chipperfield cross was chested down by Salapasidis inside the box, dragged onto the left foot and rifled into the net. A Costanzo free kick was fisted away by Hughes soon afterwards but Sabljak was on hand outside the area and swung his leg hopefully at the ball with the kind of shot which rarely comes off. Well this was a rare shot. Boom! Alas Adelaide were beaten and Wollongong deservedly advance.

Elimination Final, loser eliminated, winner into Minor Semi-Final
1st leg Played (19/04/1998) Marconi Stadium
Referee : M Breeze, Crowd : 10113
Ante Covic, Luke Casserly (Christian Care 46), Mark Babic, Pan Keun Kim, Domenic Longo, Brendan Renaud, Darren McDonald (sent off 45+), Brad Maloney, Vlado Zoric (Michael Smith 88), Sean Babic (Mauro van Cuylenberg 72), Francis Awaritefe
Goal : Awaritefe 22
1 - 0 Sydney United
Zeljko Kalac, David Barrett, Velimir Kupresak, Joe Vrkic (Jason Culina 61), Stuart Munro, Robert Hooker, Peter Bennett, Paul Bilokapic (David Mitchell 75), Jacob Burns, Abbas Saad, Mile Sterjovski
Marconi set up camp in the Sydney United half of the field early in the game and applied some consistent pressure. Eventually it paid off when Marconi, having won another corner, had Casserly play it a long way back to McDonald who, in turn, played a cross into the box. With all the United players moving out Awaritefe outjumped his marker (Vrkic?) and headed past the out-of-position Kalac for the first, and only, goal. Marconi continued to push hard and McDonald pushed a little hard and earnt a second yellow, and the ire of his coach Zoran Matic, for a tackle on Paul Bilokapic. United made something of the advantage they now had but not enough to get the goal. More often than not they opted for ambitious (but well taken) long range shots at goal.
2nd leg Played (26/04/1998) Parramatta Stadium
Referee : M Shield, Crowd : 10768
Sydney United
Zeljko Kalac, David Barrett (David Mitchell 46), Velimir Kupresak (sent off 33), Stuart Munro (Abbas Saad 73), Mark Rudan, Peter Bennett, Jacob Burns (Paul Bilokapic 62), Marcus Phillips, Robert Hooker, Jason Culina, Mile Sterjovski
0 - 1 Marconi-Fairfield
Ante Covic, Luke Casserly (Mauro van Cuylenberg 77), Mark Babic, Pan Keun Kim, Dominic Longo, Christian Care, Brad Maloney, Vlado Zoric, Brendan Renaud (Michael Smith 83), Sean Babic (Song Chul Yoon 80), Francis Awaritefe
Goals : Awaritefe 71
As expected this was a tight encounter between two teams who could hardly know one another better. The main point of interest was the sending off of Kupresak in an off-the-ball midfield with former teammate Sean Babic. Kupresak had climbed into the back of Babic contesting the ball but long after the ball had left the two had an exchange in which Kupresak appeared to headbutt Babic. The referee did not see the incident but sent Kupresak off on the report of the 4th official. In truth I think Kupresak didn't really headbutt Babic but he did lose his temper. Anyway it still took well into the second half before Marconi secured the game, although it had looked only a matter of time. Eventually Maloney's low cross was left by Zoric which allowed Awaritefe to put in the ball unmarked and in front of goal. Even Francis doesn't miss those.