South Melbourne FC broke its Paisley Park hoodoo when the Blues recorded a hard-fought 1-1 away draw against Altona Magic on Sunday afternoon.
Substitute Fernando De Moraes’ late equalising goal was enough to earn the side a share of the spoils in the club’s opening match of the 2010 Victorian Premier League season.
South entered the match knowing all too well the horrible record the side had suffered at Paisley Park in recent years.
Since re-joining the VPL in 2005, South had played Altona in five matches at the venue and lost every single time. In the previous meeting (round 21, 2009) it had been a resounding 3-0 demolition job by the Magic, with then-South goalkeeper Tommi Tomich enduring a nightmare game in goals.
This time around, Tomich was in between the sticks for the Magic following his off-season switch to Paisley Park.
Ex-South boy Danni Radojicic joined Tomich in the starting eleven for Altona, whilst former South goalkeeper Andrew Sfetkopoulos and former midfielder Jose Vasquez were on the bench for the Magic. South’s starting eleven comprised of four new signings, with two former Altona players in Peter Zois and Daniel Vasilevski as well as James Stefanou and Marinos Gasparis.
The first half was an even affair, with few chances created by both sides. South nearly had a dream start less than two minutes in, when a shot from Vasilevski on the left side flew across goal. With Tomich beaten, Gasparis was just unable to connect with the ball, which would have resulted in a simple tap-in.
Despite South’s pressure, Tomich seemed comfortable in goals for the home side, something that South had needed so desperately for most of the previous season.
Fifteen minutes into the game, Altona almost had a freak goal, when a rushed defensive clearance from halfway nearly caught Zois off-guard.
The custodian had the goal covered, but at the last minute lost his bearings and had to push the ball away for a corner.
Shortly after, a set piece was fired into the South area. Zois came out to punch in front of a sea of bodies but could only clear the ball as far as the waiting Tony Saric at the edge of the area. He fired the ball into the net for the opening goal.
South stepped up the pressure in the second half and was unlucky not to be level on two occasions.
Firstly, Gianni De Nittis was clearly onside following a beautiful through-ball by Joseph Youssef, but was denied by an offside flag.
Secondly, a turn and shot by De Nittis was palmed clear for a corner by Tomich, who was desperate for a clean sheet against his old side.
Altona by this stage were happy to defend in numbers before trying to catch the away side on the counter-attack.
South coach Vaughan Coveny introduced De Moraes into the contest with half an hour remaining and the Futsalroo repaid the faith by equalising with four minutes remaining.
De Moraes was put through one-on-one with Tomich, and with two Altona defenders on his toes, managed to get around Tomich before chipping the ball into the open goal, sending the hundreds of travelling South fans wild on the nearby hill.
South play host to newly-promoted Bentleigh at Bob Jane Stadium next Sunday afternoon and will be keen on revenge following the penalty-shootout loss to the Greens in the Hellenic Cup final last week.
Bentleigh got its season off to a good start with a gritty 1-1 draw away to Oakleigh Cannons. 10-man Heidelberg United was defeated 3-2 at home by Sunshine Georgies.