Substitute Gianni De Nittis was the hero as South Melbourne scored a last-gasp equaliser to earn a hard-fought 2-2 away draw against Green Gully on Saturday.
Despite taking an early lead through a Fernando De Moraes penalty, South went down 2-1 despite heavy controversy surrounding Green Gully’s second goal during which South goalkeeper Tommi Tomich looked to have been heavily fouled.
The Blues came into the contest on the back of four straight victories which has seen them work their way into the league’s top five.
In contrast, Gully were looking to rebound following their somewhat surprising 2-1 loss to Altona Magic at Paisley Park two weeks ago.
The home side went into the contest looking to use their home ground to maximum advantage, having not conceded a goal at Green Gully Reserve in 2009.
Given that fact, finding the back of the net looked to have been a doubly daunting task as South have not scored at the venue since Round 20 of the 1986 NSL season.
The away side came out of the blocks firing, with Vaughan Coveny hitting two half-chances wide of the target, signalling the intentions of the veteran forward and the away side.
Sitting on 99 league goals for Hellas, Coveny looked hungry to give South the lead early on.
South continued to control play in the middle of the park and through a fiercely won ball by their 100th game veteran Rama Tavsancioglu, were able to launch another attack towards goal.
On this occasion, Rama played the ball wide to Zoric on the right hand side of the area, before the diminutive attacking player hit a speculative effort into the arms of Steven Tilovski in the Gully goal.
In response Green Gully launched a very fluent attack, with Andy Vargas darting past a stagnant looking South defence before squaring the ball into the path of Kole Delev just inside the area. Delev then hit a low shot just wide of the target.
It was South that opened the scoring, when Sebastian Petrovic was brought down in the area. Australian Futsalroo De Moraes rushed to the spot and buried the penalty to his left hand side to give the away side a deserved lead and their first goal at Green Gully Reserve in 23 years.
In typical fashion, Green Gully responded to the goal almost immediately with a speculative shot by Vargas once again flashing past the upright of Tomich.
Gully continued to pressure the South defence and nearly grabbed an equalising goal when a poorly cleared ball fell into the path of Delev in the area once more.
With the goal beckoning, Delev’s shot deflected off the South defence for a corner.
From the resultant corner, the ball flew into the back post where the wide-open Mile Medjedovic headed the ball across the six yard area, resulting in a scrap.
After two attempts, Delev slammed the ball into the roof of the net to get his side on equal terms.
South started the second half well and almost had the go-ahead goal in the 51st minute, when Vaughan Coveny intercepted a loose ball just outside the area.
Unselfishly, Coveny then played the ball to Fernando, who after a touch and a step-over opted to launch a curling shot at goal from the corner of the penalty box.
Frustratingly for both Fernando and the strong travelling faithful, the ball flew well over the bar.
Coveny continued to cause headaches for the Gully defence and in the 58th minute he stormed down the left hand side of attack and past a host of defenders before hitting a low shot that forced a tremendous save from Tilovski, keeping the home side level.
In the 75th minute, Gully launched an attack towards the goal, with a high ball floated into the six yard area.
Despite Tomich looking like he had possession covered, the ball ended up in the back of the net after Joel Nikolic made contact to the arm of the big custodian in an attempt to foil him from catching the ball.
This was not spotted by the referee who awarded the goal much to the disapproval of the away team and supporters.
With time ticking away and South throwing more players forward, Tomich made a low save to keep his side in the contest, thwarting a shot from Pablo Cardozo.
This save ultimately proved to be crucial as South managed to snare a draw in the last minute of injury time, when Coveny set up the open De Nittis who smashed the ball low and hard into the back of the net to send the away contingent into raptures.
South earning a well-deserved 2-2 draw, its first of the season which keeps them one point above Gully in the VPL’s top five.
In a first for the VPL, Hume City will host South Melbourne on Saturday April 25th for the Anzac Day Cup.
Anzac Day is a very important day for the Australian community, symbolising the anniversary of the first major military action fought by members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I.
The day is considered to be one of the most sacred and spiritual days on the Australian calendar, with a public holiday being observed to honour those heroic Australians who risked all, and sacrificed so much.
With this in mind, Anzac Day has been a day that has also seen our diggers honoured through sport, with the AFL playing the Collingwood – Essendon blockbuster on the day every year.
South Melbourne FC Director Dr. George Triantos was excited about the opportunity to play in such a historic game: “South Melbourne FC is delighted to be participating in this wonderful sporting opportunity to commemorate and honour the sacrifices of our troops.
We urge all SMFC members and all Victorian football fans in general to support this initiative, and attend the ANZAC Day Cup,” said Dr Triantos.
The game will kick off at the newly developed Broadmeadows Valley Park at 3.30pm, with the Anzac Day ceremony commencing at 3pm.
The Oakleigh Cannons are three points behind South in sixth position after their crucial 1-1 draw against Richmond Eagles who are in second spot on 14 points.
Bill Damianos scored a late equaliser for Oakleigh despite trailing for much of the match.
Oakleigh travel to Altona in a crucial 6th vs. 7th match next week.