To the few who claim that the Serbian Sports Centre is not in the middle of nowhere, please be quiet and/or go away. When they switch the lights on at the MCG, you can see them from Northcote's grandstand; out at Keysborough, all you can see are horses and people on the other side of the fence who were too tight to pay to get in. Now to the game.
Our first half was beyond atrocious. White Eagles dominated every facet of the game. Former South forward Goran Zoric did most of the damage, playing wide on the left. Time and again he destroyed Sebastian Petrovich who was stationed at right back.
Petrovich looked slow and out of place. Even when attempting to establish attacks, he was being harried relentlessly by Zoric, who exploited the pace advantage with merciless zeal. Petrovich first received a yellow card for a clumsy and frustrated tackle on Zoric, and then a penalty after bringing down Zoric. Luckily for South, Zoric smashed the ensuing penalty against the bar, but South wasn't able to rally from that piece of fortune.
Zoric went on to score two goals in the first half, almost identical in their execution. Running around Petrovich and across the face of the 18 yard box past Topalovic, he blasted both his goals into the bottom corner, which made one wonder where this form had come from. At South - though admittedly he wasn't the only one - he would struggle to bury chances from the six yard box, and his defensive efforts were mostly negligible.
White Eagles were helped further in the first half by South's tactical shortcomings. Springvale played very high up the field, and yet South refused to move the ball quickly, preferring to mess around with aimless short passes, which would almost inevitably gift the ball back to the home team. The home side's high tempo also saw South unable to win much in the middle of the field - the only saving grace was that Springvale weren't able to create any more clear cut chances, and that South wasn't down by further.
Not seeing any immediate way out of the predicament we were in, one was left hoping for damage limitation. In the second half drastic changes were brought about. De Nittis and Petrovich off, the new Heart loan signing Kamal Ibrahim on as well as Kyle Joryeff and much to my surprise, the game swung almost immediately. Ibrahim's fellow Heart teammate Kliment Taseski wss moved to right back, and shut Zoric out of the game.
Within 13 minutes South was in front. Fernando scored first with a long range effort, before a dreadful error by Springvale's goalkeeper gifted Ibrahim a goal on debut. Coming out for a ball over the top, the keeper collected the ball, which was then accidentally dislodged by a collision with one of his defenders - the ball fell to Ibrahim, who stroked the ball home to level the scores. A minute later Taseski hit another long range effort to put the visitors ahead.
Celebrations were shortlived after O'Dor gave away a penalty, and this time Springvale didn't waste their chance. 3-3 and still half an hour to play. Carl Recchia put South back in front after Fernando's shot hit the bar, and Jesse Krncevic made it 5-3 and seemingly out of the reach of Springvale, but the home side managed to pull it back to 5-4 after a parried shot was tucked away. Krncevic made it 6-4 moments later, and that was how it stayed, somehow, for the rest of the game.
While many were happy with the win and in particular the fightback, there were many obvious concerns to come out of the game. Fernando De Moraes undoubtedly gave South the spark we needed in the 2nd half, but as with last week against Green Gully was obviously not 100% right, and a bad tackle on him late on the game when he should have been subbed off, may have made things worse.
While the half time tactical reshuffle worked, it should have come far earlier. The manner of our first half capitulation required far earlier intervention - against a better side, we might well have been down further than what turned out to be a measly two goals. In addition, while we could even have scored 10 goals in the second half - Krncevic's overhead kick and some close offside calls will be interesting to see on the replay - it was done against a defence which had already leaked seven goals in its first two games, and will almost certainly concede many more by year's end.
Indeed all the positives - the stellar efforts of the new signings, the fightback, the scintillating attacking play of the second half and the general buzz after such a win could well be negated by the eventual inferiority of the opponent. White Eagles were unable to shut up shop or adjust tactically, and I believe that as with their previous stints in the VPL, they will struggle to survive the fight against relegation.
For us, once again we looked magnificent going forward once we got going, but against better opponents, and especially against sides which are able to grind out results, we'll need massive improvement across the board. Next week with games against the VTC and Bentleigh Greens, we'll see if we're able to show the requisite improvement. Two grinding 1-0 wins might be the order of the day after the two opening rounds defensive efforts.