Carlton v Souths

Round 24 report by Alan Clark
Carlton v South Melbourne

Carlton's return to Olympic Park under its new ownership couldn't have had a more competitive edge. Not only were they to face league-leaders South Melbourne, it was to be the re-match of the fateful Grand Final between these two sides at this venue almost a year before. Carlton felt hard done by in that narrow loss. A win in this game would regenerate Carlton's chances of reaching the finals as well as make some amends.

But Carlton's game-plan required revision just minutes before kick-off. Kiwi international and key defender Sean Douglas pulled a hamstring in the pre-game warm-up and was replaced in the starting eleven by Marcus Stergiopoulos. Serdar Pir - who had already played a full game in the preceding youth match was drafted to fill the vacancy on the bench.

South Melbourne welcomed back Goran Lozanovski after a lengthy lay-off through injury, his right knee sporting a brace. Despite this, his right leg was to prove the downfall of Carlton in the 66 minutes he was on the park before being substituted.

In the eighth minute, and then again in the 36th, he combined with Nick Orlic in almost carbon-copy moves which resulted in Orlic heading South into a two goal lead.

The first came from a corner. Dean Anastasiadis had managed to touch around the post a low driven shot from Vaughan Coveny which followed a free-kick taken by Lozanovski. Anastasiadis' save was crucial, but only deferred the opening goal. Lozanovski's corner arrowed to the head of Orlic who had moved into the box, scoring high into the net.

The second came from a disputed free-kick. Andrew Marth had been adjudged to have fouled Lozanovski ranging up South's left wing. Lozanovski took the inswinging free-kick and again found Orlic whose unstoppable header extended South's lead.

Lozanovski set up the third ten minutes after the break, this time for Steve Panopoulos. Lozanovski's curling right foot cross from the right side was to where Panopoulos ran, meeting the ball on the volley and sending it past the hapless Anastasiadis.

Lozanovski was to depart shortly after - a substitution planned, but then enforced as he suffered a crunching tackle and an injury before the change could be effected.

South coach Ange Postecoglou said he was delighted to get Lozanovski back. "We've come through this patch missing Goran and we've still been getting results. When you get him back, you realise what a quality player he is. He adds that much more to our team."

But the time of Lozanovski's substitution the win was already assured, and despite a few half chances by either side subsequently, there was to be no change to the score.

In his post-match comments, Postecoglou showed guarded optimism in South's quest for a repeat Championship. "Everything is going to plan, but that's not sheer luck either. We're a good team.

"I'm happy with the way things are going. Our motivation is we just want to be successful - we were successful last year, and that's our goal again this year."

Carlton coach Eddie Krncevic was upbeat despite the loss. In Carlton's previous home game Krncevic was scathing in his criticism of his more senior players - this time he was generous in his praise for the youngsters he had introduced. "We had three young kids out there today, two seventeen year-olds and an eighteen year-old. I was quite impressed with them today. That's encouraging. The kids have put in."

Krncevic however was highly critical of referee Brett Hugo who he alleged had exchanged inappropriate words with Lupo Lapsansky after the two had collided in midfield, breaking up a promising Carlton move. He will be putting in a report of the incident.