Monday, 15 August 2011

At Last - South Melbourne 1 Heidelberg United 0

This blog entry/match report will not be a linear account. Linear narratives are pretty stupid anyway. Five years of hurt was almost worth it yesterday. After five years of losing games we dominated, of needing late scrambling efforts to snare a draw from the jaws of defeat, of finding ever more ludicrous ways of not taking all three points against these chumps, to win with a semi or three quarters dodgy penalty, and see them miss their chance at the other end, was all too bloody sweet.

Stephen Weir was involved in most of our attacks. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
Stephen Weir played his best game for the club - is that what I said last week as well? Quite simply, he was in just about everything. Next to him, Jesse Krncevic's absence has been incredibly evident, with five goals from his four games after returning from suspension. He challenges for the ball, chases well, and seems to have a decent rapport with Weir. Carl Recchia was also a rock in defense, and there seems to be a good vibe amongst the squad. Winning can do strange and unpredictable things.

So after all the unsubstantiated rumours (which we at South of the Border didn't start, but happily passed along) and innuendo (he's in Malaysia!) about Osagie Ederaro's visa ending, he of course did end up playing, allegedly at a cost of $5,000 per week to extend his stay. But George Katsakis, being the master tactician that he is - and seriously, how has this moron had the better of us for so long? - played his best player at his most optimum position of right back. Not forward, where he scores bucketloads of goals. Not perhaps on the wing, where he can dribble and run past defenders. But at right back where he was in a great position to hear the 'where's your visa' chant.

There was bad news from the game for us as well though. Steven Topalovic reportedly has a broken tibia - he came off just before halftime, with Trent Waterson replacing him. Topa's not everyone's favourite player, but you still don't want to see that kind of thing happen - mind you, the joke's have already begun that he still has one good leg, so Eddie may yet start him next week. Also missing next week will be Seb Petrovich, who was sent off about five minutes from the end of regulation after copping a second, and some say unnecessary yellow card.

A midfield and defensive reshuffle of sorts may be in order, but the main reason we'll even need one is because we're still in the finals. And apart from some desperate defending and Jesse's well taken penalty, we have Zaim Zeneli to thank for that. He gave away the penalty - I'd pass judgment but I couldn't see anything through the mass of bodies and all the way from the other side of the ground - but he also saved it, and it was a double save to boot, after he manged to collect the follow up shot.

The penalty was won about 20 seconds after Petrovich was sent off. A sense of doom spread around the ground, except amongst the small pocket of Heidelberg support on the hill who were celebrating as if it had already gone in. Surprisingly, it was Hamlet Armenian who stepped up to take the spot kick. To his credit, Hamlet works hard, but as first choice for a steely nerves moment of life and death, he wouldn't be my first choice. And yes, that is based a lot on the poor season that he had with us a few years back. But with Osagie and Saso Alexovski, two of the better strikers in the league at your disposal, or Craig Elvin, the experienced defender, why Hamlet?

Jesse's stoked after scoring from the spot. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
Was our penalty legit? The talk after the game was apparently about whether or not the foul was committed in or out of the box. My thoughts at the time were about whether there was really enough contact, whether it was more of a 50/50 ball that Weir merely lost a battle of strength for. Normally I'd be more diplomatic, but after the last five years of crap, the dodgier the calls in our favour the better. Who could forget Osagie winning that penalty with the most blatant dive this side of Serie A? Or Vassiliadis getting Coveny sent off by rolling around like he'd been shot? Or fast forward to just a few months ago when Krncevic was sent off for calling Griffin McMaster a fucking cheat. No, I'll take a dodgy win. Screw Heidelberg.

It was a tight and niggly affair, without much flow to the game. Some have blamed the ref for that, but if there's dodgy tackles being thrown in what else can a ref do? Both sides hit the woodwork in the second half with the game still at 0-0, Heidelberg hitting the crossbar from a corner, and South hitting the back post when a Heidelberg defender almost flicked his header into his own net off another dangerous cross. Weir also his the sude netting from close range and should have cut a ball across for Krncevic in the middle. At the other end, there were times where we struggled to clear the ball from defense and Zeneli could be seen flying all over the place.

It just happened to fall our way this once.

The Other Game
So who are we playing next week? In retrospect, it was always going to be Oakleigh. Sure they were 2-0 up at home against Hume City, and then 3-2 up with 89 minutes having being played, but that just made the cosmically ordained choke all the more priceless, copping two goals in the space of about a minute. The rumours of Hume's demise have been greatly exaggerated - they might have some problems in defense, but going forward they are still incredibly potent - Richie Cardozo and Andy Vlahos are in awesome form, the latter in particular belying his age and his apparent two pack a day cigarette habit to run rings around his opponents.

So Oakleigh it is then, no time or day or place was available at time of print, though you'd imagine it'd be at Jack Edwards Reserve with a pretty decent crowd. Oakleigh have good players, but they, like everyone else in this league except probably Green Gully, are prone to making heinous and costly errors. We've beaten them twice this year already, and have a decent record against them overall - you've just got to wonder though how much longer we can keep this run going, and when finishing outside the double chance spots will cost us.

Will Fernando De Moreas and Marinos Gasparis get a look in this time? Gasparis wasn't in the squad list, Fernando wasn't used either. Is Fernando fit and injury free? Was there concern about either of those players ability to be effective in what ended up being a torrid and rough affair? Will Yanni Galanos get more game time? He's been back two weeks and could be an x-factor type of player. So many questions, so little insight.

The Perils of Taking Public Transport
I only took public transport to the pub yesterday, and got a lift to the ground. And then another lift to Oakleigh and home. Which meant that I got to avoid to the torture that is dealing with Heidelberg Harismidis. Poor Gains though didn't. Here's his text message to me relating his bus trip.
So yeah harismidis likens us to man u compared to berger's city. their limited resources that is.

My brain hurts just trying to think about that.

I'm Only Happy When It Rains Department
Apparently one of our own fans left the game early in disgust - and vowed never to come back - either because we were winning or because of the cynical attempts by the club to control information on Facebook. Makes sense to me. Each to their own and all that.

Final Thought
Took too long to happen, but when it came, how sweet it was. I was hugging randoms including Jesus, my hands were numb, I must've had the stupidest grin on my face for hours afterwards. I'd really love for us to win the title, and that's about the most obvious and dumb thing I could say about this season.

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