South Melbourne and Perth Glory shared the points and a goal apiece in the top of the table clash at Bob Jane Stadium on Sunday.
After a stalemate first period, Con Boutsianis gave South the lead within ten minutes of the re-start, only to have Glory respond almost immediately. Jamie Harnwell stole behind the South defence to glance in a header from a perfectly-flighted Kasey Wehrman cross from the right.
Bousianis' goal came from a sprightly move from midfield when Captain Paul Trimboli sent in a through-ball to Andy Vlahos who twisted with the ball, holding it with his back to goal. Vlahos in turn fed Boutsianis outside him allowing the winger to reach close to the bye-line from where his low shot beat Jason Petkovic and went in at the far post.
But the joy of the South support was short-lived. Zeljko Susa lost possession near the half-way line, and Glory swept the ball wide to Wehrman wide on the right. Wehrman's cross went behind the South defence which had pushed up in support of Susa's possession. Jamie Harnwell was able to get a glancing touch to the ball to send it past Michael Petkovic, and had he failed in his touch, Bobby Despotovski was also lurking, ready to convert.
"The level of the game wasn't so good", said Glory coach Berndt Stange after the game. "I expected a little bit more class from both teams. (Neither) team deserved more than a point."
South coach Mickey Petersen concurred. "All-up, I'm content with a point."
Both coaches were critical of the playing surface.
"It can't handle the extreme weather," said Petersen by way of explanation. "It's got a fungus underneath. As soon as it gets to 35 (degrees celcius), it just dies."
If the first period was a midfield stalemate, the second period had started with a bang. With most patrons' minds not fully back on the action after the interval, South were awarded a penalty after Andy Vlahos had been upended in the box by Glory's young sweeper Ljubo Milicevic. Trimboli stepped up to take the kick.
Last week Trimboli took responsibility for a penalty which was saved. This week, his effort was so extravagantly high as not to require any intervention by Glory keeper Jason Petkovic.
Perhaps it was justice, for the penalty award was marginal, even to South coach Petersen. "I don't think it was a penalty at all. We got a penalty and then we missed it, so it's all-square."
There was perhaps too much at risk for both sides to expect either team to commit to constant attacking football, and so both defences dominated. South Melbourne's veteran defender Mehmet Durakovic ably held league top-scorer Damien Mori to but a few opportunities.
"We controlled the game," said Stange. "But we didn't give enough support to our two strikers. We'll take the point, and we'll leave."
Durakovic's effective partnership at the heart of the back-line with Patrick Kisnorbo is to be broken, at least for a while. Kisnorbo has been called up to the National u-20 squad for its qualifiers. Petersen expects Steve Iosifides to return to the side.
"It keeps the Premiership wide, wide open," said Stange. "Six points are nothing today. We'll see South again in the Finals."
The large crowd of almost 13,000 could have been bigger but for a downpour mid-afternoon which gave rise to second thoughts amongst the less than fully-committed. As it was, most in attendance were drenched in the uncovered terracing as the rain came tumbling shortly after the game's commencement.