Souths v Olympic

Round 5 report by Alan Clark (Part 1)
South Melbourne v Sydney Olympic

There were two defining moments within the first three minutes of this match which indicated we were about to witness a most remarkable contest.

The first was after 27 seconds when Adem Poric bent a free-kick from 26 metres around a poorly organised South Melbourne defensive wall and before the majority of players had even touched the ball.

That tipped the balance well in Sydney Olympic's favour, as although Olympic was two players short through international call-up, South Melbourne was also two short for the same international, and a further four were missing for disciplinary and injury reasons.

In most matches that would have set the contest and been the kernel around which the rest of the game grew.

But for reasons best known to Olympic's Chris Kalantzis and his internal demons, it was his reaction just over two minutes later which became the real moment where this game's fate was determined. In an incident so far off the ball that it was missed by most, he and George Goutzioulis tangled, and Kalantzis struck out, felling Goutzioulis who clutched his face as he dropped.

If the officials missed the part Goutzioulis played, and Olympic coach Branko Culina later remarked that Kalantzis's face had scratch-marks, Kalanztis's strike was not, and referee Eddie Lennie instantly brought out the red card.

What had been elation for Olympic at going ahead so early turned immediately into despair at the challenge now ahead for the remaining 97 minutes - and what had rocked South and its fans so hard was now seen to be just a minor bruise, and one certain to be put behind before the match was ended.

And so it transpired, although it took a two goal burst from John Anastasiadis close to the end of the half before South took control. Sustained South pressure finally paid off when Fausto De Amicis sent in a cross to the head of Anastasiadis who lobbed a header into the net in the 40th minute. In the very next attack, and with Anastasiadis making a direct run on goal he was stopped by a mass of defenders one of whom handled the ball. Anastasiadis claimed the offence was inside the box, but Lennie determined it was just outside. Coveny blasted the ball into the wall from where it deflected for a corner. David Clarkson sent in the corner to where Nick Orlic stood in the arc of the penalty box - Orlic headed to the far post area where Anastasiadis headed again and despite the desperate attempts of a goal-line defender, it found the net.

By this stage Kimon Taliadoros had left the field through injury, and was joined in the treatment room just on the break by Mark Brennan.

Olympic came out committing three players to attack - Pablo Cardozo, Norman Tome, and Nick Carle were looking dangerous and likely to score. But the committment left room for South Melbourne's midfield to exploit and in the 53rd minute Jason Polak found room for himself with just a solitary cenral defender and Anastasiadis making a supporting run to his left. Polak chose to ignore that option and was fortunate to find the ball rebounding to him after his shot hit goalkeeper Jim Kouris leaving a simple tap-in from six yards to make the margin two goals.

Poric also left the field through injury directly after and Olympic's threat was almost over. Carle and Tome continued to impress and kept South's defenders always aware that a mis-hit pass or a badly controlled ball would be costly. It has been this feature mostly absent from visiting teams - pressing South's back four who prefer to retain the ball, probing for an open midfielder - and when other teams see how effective its application was as practised by Carle, Tome, and Cardozo, Bob Jane spectators might see more visitors employ that tactic.

Branko Culina was very displeased with Kris Kalantzis's indiscipline and said he expected a player with the level of senior footballing experience of Kalantzis to be able to control himself much better.

Ange Postecoglou will be happy with the win, and even with the selection headache he now has which was the converse of his problem coming into the game. What was "How do I find the players?" now becomes "Who do I leave out?".

Round 5 report by Alan Clark (Part 2)
South Melbourne v Sydney Olympic

The test was going to be which of these two depleted sides would best be able to cover the absence of key players. Brett Emerton and Jason Culina of Sydney Olympic were absent on national team duty, as were Michael Curcija and Tansel Baser of South. But South also suffered the consequences of the indiscipline of Steve Panopoulos and Goran Lozanovski who were suspended after receiving red cards the previous week in their defeat at the hands of Marconi, and continuing injury kept out Paul Trimboli, and Con Blatsis.

But a moment of rashness by Olympic striker Chris Kalantzis when he clashed with South Melbourne defender George Goutzioulis in the third minute, resulting in his dismissal, changed the balance of the match, and meant Olympic's task would be a long and hard one.

It need not have been. Olympic were already leading after a 27 second goal from Adem Poric, who blasted home a free-kick from 26 metres. South's defensive wall was surely wrongly aligned, as there was no resistance to the ball's path which sped past Jason Petkovic's left side.

Then came that moment later described by Olympic coach Branko Culina as an act of stupidity by Kalanzis. "I can't understand why a player who has had ten year's professional experience overseas would do something so stupid." said Culina after the game. "The contest was over. If we want to go places, we have to be disciplined." he said.

Kalantzis had tangled with Goutzioulis, and Culina claimed Kalantzis has scratch-marks down his face. Even so, he said a player should be disciplined enough not to respond in the way Kalantzis so fatefully did.

The scales were now tipped South's way, but it wasn't until a two minute spell just before the half-time interval that the score-line turned in favour of South Melbourne.

Two headed goals by John Anastasiadis - the first from a cross from the left from Fausto De Amicis in the 40th minute, was followed up just three minutes later. This time a David Clarkson corner was headed on by Nick Orlic at the edge of the penalty-area to where Anastasiadis was waiting at the corner of the six-yard box. Anastasiadis had Olympic's keeper Jim Kourtis behind him, and lofted a looping header to the far post where it carried a defender's vain attempt at a block.

To compound Olympic's plight, Kimon Taliadoros had been stretchered off after 37 minutes and replaced by Elias Augerinos. Mark Brennan was to be carried off just before the half with a leg injury, and substitured by Nick Carle.

Carle, Pablo Cardozo, and Norman Tome brought the game up to South after the break. Culina said that at the interval, they decided there was no point in defending, as South Melbourne would take a grip on the match and snuff it out as a contest. He must have fancied Olympic's chances with these three speedy players, each of whom have excellent close control skills, facing a new South defensive formation - and one slower than the attack they faced.

The tactic worked, and even despite being a player short, the speedy threesome launched some dangerous attacks.

But space was left at the back as a result. In the 53rd minute, Jason Polak was fed a through ball and faced only one outfield defender. Anastasiadis was making a supporting run to Polak's left but Polak continued with the ball before shooting into Kourtis, then gathering the rebound for a tap-in. At 3-1 there was little way back likely for Olympic.

And Olympic's reserves were exhausted when Poric left the field through injury soon after the goal and Carlos Gonzalez came on to empty the bench.

Perversely, Olympic's best moments followed. Peter Tsekenis was able to feed Cardozo, Tome, and Carle who made the South defence and midfield chase and cover.

For South, counters were made by Anastasiadis and Vaughan Coveny who were well supported by Clarkson, Polak, and Jim Tsekinis. Tsekinis is settling in well to his new team, and has become a crowd-pleaser for the otherwise fickle Bob Jane support.

South made its only substitution five minutes from time when Tsekinis came off for Mustafa Mustafa.

Perhaps the best chance of the match came in injury-time and fell to Coveny who has been having a goal-scoring streak of late. Coveny out-sped his covering defender, drew Kourtis and pushed the ball past him, only to see it shave the outside of the far post.

South coach Ange Postecoglou said after the game he had only two fit substitutes, as Adrian Cuzzupe had turned an ankle coming onto the ground for the warm-up. It was clear Anastasiadis was tentative, returning as he was from a hamstring injury, and so South's selection decisions were difficult indeed.

But perhaps not quite as difficult as for next week. Who does Postecoglou leave out with the return of this week's absentees?

One of those taking an enforced break was Goran Lozanovski who made a quick visit to Germany to try out for Armenia Bielefeld (check spelling pls). With his return, and that of Curcija, Baser, Panopoulos, and possibly Trimboli for next week's game in Perth, Postecolglou has some serious thinking ahead.

But so too will Kalanztis after Culina gives him the message about the need for discipline.