South Melbourne FC

The Blue and White Forever

Match Report: Preston Lions v SMFC

Match Report: Preston Lions v SMFC

Monday, 16 March 2009 11:15 AM

By John Kyrou | Photos by Cindy Nitsos

South Melbourne FC produced one of its finest away performances in the club’s 50 year history by thumping rivals Preston by the astonishing score line of 1-7 at BT Connor Reserve. Goran Zoric scored four second half goals in what was a remarkable individual performance.

South went into the fixture on the back of two heartbreaking 0-1 home defeats in the opening rounds of the 2009 Victorian Premier League season. However, the away side travelled with confidence having not lost at the venue in 22 years, with the last defeat being a narrow 2-1 loss in the 1987 National Soccer League season. Preston, who is also celebrating its 50th year, entered the contest having lost 1-2 at home to the Melbourne Knights in the opening round then having its match against Altona postponed last weekend due to a lighting failure.

South started nervously and Preston took full advantage to open the scoring.
Barely a minute had registered on the clock when the Lions capitalised on a defensive mix-up in the six-yard area, with Robert Dolevski’s low and hard shot giving deputising South goalkeeper Andrew Sfetkopoulos no chance. Despite conceding so early, the away team kept their cool and were very unlucky not to be level only minutes later, when Vaughan Coveny’s header was cleared off the line by the Lions defence.

South eventually found its rhythm and the team began to settle into the BT Connor Reserve conditions and dominate possession, especially down the wings. As a result, chances to score came thick and fast but Preston’s goalkeeper was up to the task, comfortably dealing with shots from Coveny, Joseph Youssef and Fernando de Moraes. South’s dominance down the wings was finally rewarded in the 29th minute. A low and hard cross from the right by Fernando found centre-back Steve O’Dor, who had charged up forward. O’Dor did not need a second chance as he smashed home the equaliser for only his second ever South goal.

From that moment, South took complete control of the match. In the 37th minute, clever one-touch play between Nunes and Coveny set Nunes up for a left-foot shot that should have given South the lead. A minute later, Fernando again found himself with an acre of space on the right wing. The Futsalroo rounded an opponent but fired the ball quickly across the box without realising how much more time he had to properly pick out one of three team mates, who were all positioned for a simple tap-in. The frustration for the away side continued when Coveny’s beautifully timed through-ball over the top of the Preston defence set Gianni de Nittis one-on-one with the Preston keeper, however the shot was well saved. From the resultant corner, Youssef’s volley flew over the bar.

With the half entering into injury time, South continued to hassle and put pressure on their opponents in order to take the lead. Their dominance finally paid off in the 47th minute when excellent build-up play by Payne, Zoric and Coveny saw the ball fall to Youssef outside the area.
Youssef calmly rounded two opponents to create an opening before hitting a low shot into the bottom left corner of the goal to send the travelling supporters wild behind the goal at the other end of the ground.

The match was over within the opening 10 minutes of the second half as South simply continued their dominance in possession and goal-scoring chances that had been enjoyed in the first half. Fernando nearly scored a remarkable goal in the 53rd minute when a delightful turn and shot from outside the area sizzled just wide of the post. Until that point South had created 6-7 excellent opportunities throughout the game to bury their opponents and wrap up the match but had not yet been able to do so.

This was when Zoric stepped up for one of the most remarkable solo efforts by a South player in its history. His first goal came through great lead-up work down the left wing by Payne and substitute Sam Torrens, who cut the ball back to Zoric just outside the area. Zoric turned his man before unleashing a beautiful curling effort that flew across the goals and into the top right corner. Eight minutes later, a similar build-up from the wing saw Zoric produce a class flick of the ball to get around his opponent before slotting the ball into the same corner of the net to make the score 1-4.

With the match over as a contest, South coach Michael Michalakopoulos decided to rest his players, sending Francesco Stella and Danni Radojicic on to replace Coveny and de Moraes. With twelve minutes of regular time left, it was 1-5 as Youssef sent Zoric through one-on-one. Instead of going for his hat-trick goal, Zoric unselfishly rounded the keeper before passing across to Radojicic, who tapped the ball into the empty net for his first goal for the club. The youngster, in only his third appearance for South, celebrated with the South supporters that were situated behind the goal.

Zoric finally achieved his hat-trick only two minutes later, when he was fouled in the area, resulting in a yellow card for the Preston keeper. Zoric stepped up to the spot but his penalty was well saved, however the ball rebounded back to the small forward, who tapped the ball into the net for South’s sixth of the evening.

With the match entering its final few minutes, Zoric then scored an outstanding half volley from outside the area that gave the Preston keeper no chance of saving. That remarkable strike capped off a wonderful afternoon for the young talent, who became the first South player to score four goals in a match in nearly eight years. The last occasion was at Bob Jane Stadium on April 29th 2001, when Con Boutsianis’ four goals against Northern Spirit in the final round of the 2000/01 season led the club to a 6-2 win.

South faces a difficult match against the Melbourne Knights at Bob Jane Stadium next Sunday, where the club will be looking for back-to-back wins and its first points at home for the season. Kick-off is at 6pm.

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