Tuesday, 23 August 2011

All Over, Red Rover for Season 2011 - Oakleigh 1 South Melbourne 0

Curious. I did only write this up last night, but thought I had already posted it. 

The simple truth of the matter is that we created few chances and were reliant on Zaim Zeneli making several important saves. Oakleigh dominated us with their physical approach to the game - aided by lenient officials - and the absence of either Carl Recchia (playing in defense) or the suspended Sebastian Petrovich in midfield meant that far too often we were second to the ball and on the back foot.

Much speculation had been raised during the week over who who would take the place of Petrovich and the injured Steven Topalovic. The latter's place was unsurprisingly taken over by Rhodri Payne, while the former was the surprise of the night and perhaps season when Yanni Galanos, who had played all of 25 minutes for the entire campaign was picked ahead of Marinos Gasparis and Fernando De Moraes.

Hindsight is a terrific thing to have, but the coaching staff must have felt that Galanos' ability as a defensive midfielder would make up for the creativity lost by not playing one of the other two. As it turned out, even when Fernando did come on, he had little impact on the game, and as has often been the case, looked a shadow of his 2010 Gold Medal winning form. Galanos, too, had little impact, while Payne, so often a Jekyll and Hyde player, reverted to his Hyde persona, constantly giving the ball away in dangerous areas.

Fernando though, was not alone in producing a sub par performance. For whatever reason, the side looked flatfooted and bereft of ideas, with perhaps the effects of playing several cutthroat games in a row eventually taking its toll. From the Dandenong Thunder game onwards, just about every game the side had played was do or die. In some ways, it was a feat to reach this far, but five consecutive sudden death games was too much for the side.

Zeneli was undoubtedly South's best player. He pulled off several important saves, including one from point blank range in the first half. He was also the victim of two crude challenges, one of which by Oakleigh hardman/biggest dog in the VPL Josh Groenwald left Zeneli with a large gash on his head which required several minutes worth of medical attention. Neither challenge, nor several other rough moments, were dealt with in any serious manner by the officials except for belated yellow cards.

Perhaps the worst and most heinous of all those challenges was from former beloved captain Ramazan Tavsancioglu who, to borrow the words of one spectator, had been lining up Jesse Krncevic since January. An awfully late challenge on the striker off the ball in front of the South bench did little to endear the 2006 championship player to his critics, as well as denting the respect that he had among those supporters who sympathised with his exit from the club.

The closest we got to scoring was early on when Stephen Weir, who otherwise was shut out of the game, hit the crossbar; and midway through the second half, when Jesse Krncevic broke through for a one on one opportunity against Peter Zois, and while he put the ball in the back of the net, the flag had gone up for offside. From my vantage point behind that goal, my instinct was that it was a fair goal. Reports from the better placed patrons on the sideline generally claimed that it was onside, but there was the odd fan who claimed that it was offside. Perhaps the video, when it comes out, may clear up the matter. Perhaps not.

Coach Krncevic delayed in making substitutions, seemingly hoping that the game would reach extra time. It was always a dangerous tactic to pursue, and the team paid for its reluctance in going for the win when a long range shot by Oakleigh nestled into the opposite corner. The player had an eternity to line up the shot, and there was little that Zeneli could do to prevent it going in. Kyle Joryeff was brought on at the death, but had little chance to change the situation, and thus South's rollercoaster season ended with a whimper.

At the time of writing of course, the fate of the coach and several players was yet to be known, and is as usual likely to be hotly debated in the months ahead. As for the blog, the standard procedure will apply, as I wrap up the season that was, hand out the awards, let the Kiss of Death runs its course for 2011 and eventually slow down to the usual off-season pace.

Fair to say that I'm still devastated by the loss, but in full acknowledgment of the crazy season that we had.

The Peter Zois Barriers/The FFV wouldn't know what to do with a crowd
One of the more ludicrous things ever seen at a VPL game - and really, that's some effort to make such a shortlist - were the taped off areas behind each of the goals, allegedly to prevent the goalkeepers from having items thrown at them or have them come into contact with rowdy fans. Among a large part of the Clarendon Corner/smfcboard and assorted hangers on community, this was taken as at least a moral victory for the vocal fan known as Stathi.

Stathi is not even close to approaching any sort of wordsmithery. He can be crude, but he generally never enters the more turgid and offensive territory of the fan known as Columbo, who is currently serving a suspension for his role in last year's pitch invasion against Heidelberg. Both have their supporters and detractors. For all the antics of this game however, Peter Zois didn't snap this time until the end of the game, when he turned around to pick up his towel and grab hold of the badge on his chest and step forward to try and have a few words.

What price Zois places on any sense of loyalty to any club is a mystery to me, and probably many other VPL folk who could rattle off several clubs he has been at and left - but perhaps that is hypocritical to point out considering that we were at least fourth in line out of those clubs. Still, the whole 'I love this club' saga obviously did rankle with him, and will do so into the future. That, and the fact that Joe Keenan speaks better Greek than he does.

As for the FFV, a large crowd turned up, were accommodated poorly both in lining up and inside the ground, and left the poor security staff to their own wits as to how to try and prevent a pathetic barrier not be moved at all. By the time the game had ended, the blockaded area I was behind in the second half had moved closer to the fence by about 3-4 metres, almost as if by magic. There was also a moderately dicey moment early in the game when the lights flickered ominously, but they stayed on. The field itself was a bobbling hovel, sand everywhere and not suited to playing a decent brand of football. Still, if we'd had the double chance we perhaps could have avoided the situation.
The FFV's idea of soccer crowd control. It's so genius that they should think about exporting it to the Balkans or South America. Photo: Gains.

Drinking/How Clarendon Corner keeps on keeping on
I do like a drop of cider, but never to excess.

Clarendon Corner almost always rises to the occasion at Jack Edwards Reserve, and last night was no exception. The return of Lefteri helped things even further, and the interplay with the behind the goals crowd was also very good, considering there were very few chanting types on that side.

Apparently next year is Clarendon's 10th anniversary, with the majority of that spell being spent in the club's most difficult years. For better and worse, it's been one constant that has kept some people coming back, and provided a bit of atmosphere, colour and a point of difference to the other clubs and their crowds that increasingly being made up of old men. I've never always approved, occasionally found myself on the opposite side of an issue, and tend not to forgive the mistakes, but at the same time, been through a lot of good times as well. Maybe time to finally bury whatever hatchets we all have?

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