South Melbourne staged a fantastic comeback in the VPL top of the table clash on Saturday night away to Dandenong Thunder, coming back from two goals down to finish the match 2-2.
The large contingent of South fans who had travelled to Dandenong saw South’s dramatic heroics in the final minutes of the match, with Fernando De Moraes and Goran Zoric scoring the crucial goals.
Dandenong Thunder went into the match on top of the table, eight points clear of South Melbourne who are in second place. Dandenong’s return to the VPL has been remarkable, having gone undefeated after the first 11 matches of the season.
A South own goal was all that separated the two sides, when they met at Bob Jane Stadium in the opening round of the 2009 season, as Dandenong won 0-1 in their return to the VPL.
Both teams entered the field looking for an early goal – the crowd witnessing the beginnings of an open match.
South’s midfield contingent of De Moraes, Rama Tavsancioglu and Sebastian Petrovich immediately propelled South forward, utilising Goran Zoric on the left wing.
Despite lacking talismanic striker Vaughan Coveny, South created several chances though Dandenong ultimately stood firm. Petrovich was South’s standout in the early stages with a ferocious performance.
The Thunder eventually scored the game’s opening goal through captain Veton Korcarevski, who scored from a header after a dubious free-kick had been conceded on the left side of Dandenong’s box.
Korcarevski rose above a pack of players, connecting with the ball and sending it past the hapless Tommi Tomich in South’s goal.
The Thunder doubled its lead just after half time. Soft defending by South Melbourne at the near post allowed Colin Quirk to trickle a wobbly looking shot into the back of the net for Dandenong’s second of the game.
The goal sparked an immediate reaction from South’s bench with coach Michael Michalakopoulos substituting defender Stiven Mrkela, who had a wonderful game, with former Chievo Verona right winger Francesco Stella.
Though Dandenong continued to look threatening, South refused to lie down, searching for a way through Dandenong’s stubborn and seemingly impenetrable defence.
It was a calamitous error from Thunder goal keeper Stuart Webster which eventually led to South’s comeback.
Despite having space and time, Webster picked up back pass in his box between the penalty spot and the six yard box.
The resultant free kick by De Moraes blasted through a sea of red shirts on the goal line and into the goal, sending South fans into delirium.
Minutes later, the comeback was complete and South Melbourne were on level terms.
A quick one-two in the middle of the ground opened up Dandenong’s defence and Goran Zoric punished Webster’s lethargy in coming off the goal line.
Though the Thunder custodian got a touch to the ball, Zoric’s powerful shot went through his legs, as the ball crashed into the back of the net.
With ten minutes to go, the Albert Park giants sensed all three points were available.
Dandenong had well and truly retracted into its collective shell and South peppered the goals in search of a winner.
Ironically, Webster pulled off a fantastic save at the death to deny Gianni De Nittis and the blues a winning goal.
Both sides seemed content with a share of the spoils, but South perhaps feeling the more positive of the too given the great comeback.
South Melbourne extended their undefeated streak to ten matches.
They have not lost since round two of the season.
In round 13, South will face Heidelberg United in the so-called ‘Greek Derby’, in a match which will have a huge influence on the VPL top five.