Syd Utd v Souths

Round 11 report by Paul Goodwin
Sydney United v South Melbourne

If anyone doubted South Melbourne's claims to having returned to their best this season, then their display against Sydney United at the Sydney side's Sports Centre on Saturday should have convinced them otherwise.

Both sides began brightly on a pleasant evening in front of an, as expected, below-par crowd.

The visitors had not fared well in Sydney in recent seasons and were under some early pressure from a United side which had been unbeaten in front of their own supporters thus far this season.

They did not wilt, however, as they mounted many attacks of their own and the signs were there that goals would definitely be scored in this absorbing contest.

In the 4th minute David Clarkson, allowed acres of space on the right all evening, got the ball over nicely for Paul Trimboli to bring out a reflex save from Brett Hughes, as the well directed header looked set to find the top corner of the net.

Two minutes later Trimboli fed Con Boutsianis on the left and the clever striker wormed his way into the box before letting fly with a great shot which cannoned off the angle of the right upright.

A good Sydney United move down the right involving Richard Plesa, Goran Talevski and Zlatko Arambasic saw the latter's cross headed just over by Cummins Menapi in the 13th.

Michael Petkovic in the Souths' goal got down well to smother an attempt by Plesa in the 15th, but after that chance the visitors began to exert a greater influence until the approach of half time.

In the 28th minute a deep free kick from Boutsianis was floated to the far post from wide on the left and when Patrick Kisnorbo nodded the ball back across goal Andy Vlahos was there to rifle the ball into a gaping net.

Coveny, who had been brought down by Plesa for the free kick, when he showed himself to be far too toey for his opponent demonstrated his flair again in the 42nd when he dashed through on the right to pick up a very clever angled pass from Vlahos and beat Hughes from a tight angle with a first time, low shot. 2-0 it was then at the break, but with United showing all the signs of running out of ideas and, more importantly, legs, long before the end

The Melbourne side continued to hold sway after the break and slowed the game down to suit, with only rare openings being created by the United boys.

Hughes saved a couple of good efforts by Trimboli and Vlahos, while substitute Vas Kalogeracos was wasteful with several chances he was presented with.

Petkovic also made some good saves as he left his line early a couple of times to avert danger and did well to thwart Arambasic who had got through to face him in the 70th.

Zeljko Susa put the game beyond any remaining doubt in the 77th when he strolled unchallenged past a string of defenders, after the ball had been flicked on to him by John Anastasiadis and he then finished easily.

Sydney United coach Alan Hunter conceded after the game that the best team had deservedly won and also said that South Melbourne would be very hard to beat for the title.

He also stated that Menapi had played well, but like a number of his team-mates he had come up against a very polished and seasoned side and the experience gained would be very beneficial for the player in the long term.

Velimir Kupresak made his long awaited return to action in this game to celebrate his 250th NSL appearance, all of which have been for Sydney United in over 12 seasons at the club.

Micky Peterson complimented his men for the quality of their attacking play and the continuing promise being shown by his younger players, such as Kisnorbo, who had joined from Bulleen and had been groomed for the first team with regular outings in the youth side over the past two seasons.

The club did everything professionally and this full time approach manifested itself in many ways including converting the dressing room on opponents' grounds to as near a replica as possible to their Bob Jane home ground environment. The club also used identical half time training routines for its substitutes which certainly impressed the crowd who were used to more leisurely behaviour in such warm-ups.

A good entertaining encounter, then, won by the better side, but with good football played by both sets of players. It should be enough to bring the crowds back for more in the New Year.