South Melbourne notched up its first ever win against New Zealand's Football Kingz in a comprehensive 3-0 victory in oppressively hot conditions at Bob Jane Stadium on Sunday evening.
The game, originally scheduled to commence at 5:00pm, was rescheduled first for 6:00pm when it was known that Melbourne was to experience a day with temperatures exceeding 40C, then further delayed to 8:00pm at the behest of the players' union.
Kingz had started the more brightly, but it was through a controversial penalty that South took the lead. Vas Kalogerakos was adjudged to have been brought down in the penalty-area by Kingz goalkeeper Simon Eaddy just before the midpoint of the first half.
"I think we were a bit lucky (with the penalty)," said South coach Mickey Petersen after the game. "There was a bit of experience by Vas to leave his foot there and get clipped, but in any case his pace caused (Kingz) problems all night, so it was worthy of a goal or a set up for a goal."
Kalogerakos had broken a Kingz offside trap after a cleverly weighted David Clarkson ball cleared the Kingz back line.
Paul Trimboli netted from the spot.
Kingz' complaints about the penalty award had some justification, as only minutes before, referee Simon Micalef had waved away claims for a penalty at the other end when Dennis Ibrahim seemed to have been fouled to a similar degree.
"Kingz were stiff (in not getting the penalty)", said Petersen. "Kingz had the better of the early exchanges for the first fifteen or twenty minutes. It took us a while to settle in."
Kingz assistant coach Shane Rufer rued those early misses. "We could have scored three or four in the first half. Wynton Rufer missed a couple of chances that he normally buries every day at training."
Speaking after the Kingz penalty-claim denied, and the South one awarded, Rufer simply said: "In football, the referee's decision is final. He's whistled how he's whistled, and that's how the game is played."
If South's first goal was given, rather than earnt, the second was due reward for a sparkling South move.
Fausto De Amicis had joined in a South foray up the left, exchanging a pass with Zjelko Susa at the edge of the penalty-area before storming to the bye-line. His cut-back was deadly. Kalogerakos had the simplest of touches to finish from inside the six-yard box.
With barely a third of the game elapsed, the home crowd waited in anticipation of further delights.
But South had probably done enough not to need to extend themselves, and seemed content to play conservatively from then on.
The brightest moment of the second-half was the long-awaited introduction of new-signing Simon Colosimo whose introduction was warmly welcomed by the South support even if it was delayed until the 72nd minute. His first touches were simple passes just getting the feel of the game.
But scarcely two minutes later, Colosimo was to play a much more ambitious pass which found Vaughan Coveny in space at the half-way line. Coveny raced up the right, then direct on goal before unleashing an unstoppable shot past Eaddy for the third.
Colosimo and Coveny were to repeat this double act a few more times without the same outcome before the match had concluded, surely something to attract the worried attention of other NSL coaches.
Although Petersen was delighted with the win and the lead-stretching three points that came with it, he was concerned at his side's approach. "I didn't think we got out of second gear at all. I didn't think our tempo was good at all. We don't plan to play at half-pace, but the weather was a bit sapping, and you have to take that into consideration."
"It's half-past midnight in New Zealand, it's thirty-something degrees. It's quite demanding situation (for us)," said Rufer by way of post-match explanation. "South had pace up front which was a killer."