If John Markovski threw Carlton a life-line with a goal in the last minute of the first leg between South Melbourne and Carlton, fourteen minutes into the second leg, Goran Lozanovski cast Carlton adrift again. His thunderous strike delighted the majority of the 15,000 crowd at Bob Jane Stadium this afternoon and sent South into the Grand Final.
Carlton's trip to the Grand Final now requires them to defeat Marconi in Melbourne next week, and after several bookings and a dismissal, it will be a weakened team for that match.
Simon Colisimo was red-carded in injury-time after receiving his second yellow card, and Carlton captain Sean Douglas yellow-carded in the same incident. Post-match radio coverage hinted that Douglas would be suspended for the Marconi game as that was his second yellow of the Finals series, but I didn't see the card brandished at him last week, so he'll need to tell us directly what the story is........
Con Anthopoulos, Vince Grella, and Marco Bresciano were also cautioned during today's game for Carlton. David Clarkson was the only South Melbourne name written in the referee's book.
In perfect conditions for football, and urged on by the biggest ever crowd at Bob Jane, South Melbourne knew Carlton would have to chase the game to overcome the one goal deficit from last week's first leg. But after Lozanovski's bullet-like strike before the game was quarter of an hour old, few would have fancied Carlton's chances. This time South fielded its top side, and wrought a much better performance that the South team comprehensively walloped 0-5 by Carlton in the last game of the regular season just three weeks before.
Markovski was again the Carlton player most likely, but needed to take a more withdrawn position later in the game in order to be assured of time and space with the ball, as earlier his threat had been minimised by tight marking from a previously porous South defence.
Bresciano and Adrian Cervinski were brought on as second-half substitutes, and enlivened Carlton's attack, Bresciano perhaps too much so, as he was booked shortly after his arrival for an over-exuberant challenge on Michael Petkovic that threatened to boil over as other players became embroiled.
South's attacks were blunted by an effective Carlton defence often relying on offside, but surely this tactic is prone to breakdown, and so fraught, especially when what's needed is goal-scoring, not goal-nullifying. Carlton's attack looked unconvincing and was well handled by Nick Orlic and Steve Iosofidis with a very young but mature Tansell Baser continuing to impress as sweeper. Combined with Fauso De Amicis as a linking full-back, South seems to have attended to its defensive fragilities at just the right time in the season.
With a week's rest, and knowing whichever opponent it faces will have its players at risk of injury and caution, South looks well placed for the Grand Final in a fortnight's time.