South Melbourne extended its lead at the top of the NSL table with a hard-fought single goal victory against Adelaide City at Bob Jane Stadium on Sunday. South now holds a two-game break over next week's Bob Jane visitors - Perth Glory.
Fausto De Amicis was this game's unlikely scorer. His 30 metre thunderbolt in first-half added time was enough to win the game.
Referee Con Diomis awarded South Melbourne a free-kick about 25 metres out, requiring City’s defensive wall to be erected at the edge of the penalty-area. Con Boutsianis sent in a shot which crashed off the wall, and rebounded into space De Amicis ran in to occupy.
"He makes a habit of doing that," said South coach Mickey Petersen after the game. "He's a left-sided defender, but he's a right-footer, so when he cuts in, he's always capable of that.
"In fact, he nailed us in one Final series for the Knights many years ago with one of those, so it's good to have him on our side doing it!"
Adelaide City coach Zoran Matic was upset at the award of the free-kick immediately prior to De Amicis' goal. "If you call that a free-kick, then I'm an idiot," he said after the match.
"You can look at it seven times if you want. There were free-kicks given around our box even if we just blew the air," he complained.
"We had some key players who missed passes (which) I can't believe," said Matic. "We haven't played well, that's for sure."
Captain Paul Trimboli had a late opportunity from the penalty-spot to bag the sealer, but Adelaide City keeper Adrian Cagalj made the save.
Lucas Pantelis had fouled Goran Lozanovski as Lozanovski was running in on goal.
"You need insurance in this game, and the second goal would have given us that. At the end of the day we were lucky. Yes we deserved our win, yes we played some good football, we created some good chances. But the suspense is what keeps people coming back," said a philosophical Petersen. "It's a drama, and today - if you are a South Melbourne supporter - it was drama right to the end."
The 200-game celebrations of City captain Aurelio Vidmar would have been greater but for a post which got in the way of a three-metre shot when the equaliser seemed certain with just seven minutes of play remaining. The move had started from City's first corner - that it was so late in the match was evidence of the effectiveness of the South defence.
The corner was swung in and only partly-cleared before it was swept goalwards again to where Vidmar stood and with space to shoot, with only an overly-exposed Michael Petkovic to beat. Vidmar's shot beat Petkovic, but not the inside of the post before this time, the South defence truly cleared.
Matic declined to single out Vidmar's miss as the most upsetting aspect of the loss. "I don't care if he missed the chance. I don't care if he missed from the goal-line - when we were passing some of the shocking passes I saw today, I nearly went and played myself."
"Apart from the penalty, my goalkeeper didn't need to make a save," pointed out Matic, illustrating the balance of the battle was not greatly tipped in favour of South. "(But) there's no question, they were the better team."