Sunday, 7 August 2011 10:57 PM
By John Kyrou
In an incredible final round of Victorian Premier League matches, South Melbourne FC crawled back from a 1-3 deficit to secure a finals place with a 3-3 draw against Northcote City at Anderson Reserve on Sunday afternoon. All six goals were scored in what was an unbelievable end-to-end first half in what was essentially an Elimination FInal before the finals series actually began. South arrived at Anderson Reserve knowing that all it needed was a point to confirm its place in the 2011 finals series. A win against Northcote, coupled with a few other results going its way, could have seen the Club finish as high as first. On the other hand, a Northcote win would have seen them overtake South and claim South’s spot in the finals. With so much at stake, there was always going to be high drama throughout the course of the afternoon.
South could not have gotten off to a better start when Jesse Krncevic opened the scoring after only three minutes. Steven Weir played the big forward through on goal and Krncevic did well to slot the ball across Northcote goalkeeper Charles Treacey and into the goal. However the lead lasted less than a minute, after Dean Piermonte skipped around Trent Waterson on the left wing before cutting the ball back for Glen Trifiro to score past Zaim Zeneli. All of a sudden South had gone from an extremely strong position into one of vulnerability. Northcote could sense this and almost made South pay again when Piermonte was put through by Rixon, however he could only fire his final shot wide of Zeneli’s goal. Northcote kept pressing and were rewarded when Jonathan Voulgaris dispossessed Steven Topalovic before hitting a low shot that beat Zeneli at his near post.
The away side now had all the momentum as South looked shell-shocked. South coach Eddie Krncevic switched Topalovic and Waterson to opposite wings in an attempt to control Rixon, however this did not faze the Northcote forward who scored his first goal for the afternoon when he brilliantly controlled Treacey’s long goal kick before smashing a shot past Zeneli to make the score 1-3. In half an hour, South had capitulated from being in a strong position of making the top three to suddenly missing the finals altogether. The home side desperately needed something to change and to score at least one goal before the halftime break. South nearly pulled a goal back when Steven Weir found space in the six yard box but his first touch was too heavy and Treacey came out to make a brave stop.
South continued pushing forward and their risk paid off. Treacey raced out of his area to collect a long ball played forward from South’s defence but Krncevic got there first and expertly lobbed the Northcote custodian to pull the score back to 2-3. Three minutes later South won a free kick on the right side of the box, where Weir stepped up and fired an unstoppable left-footed free kick past Treacey and into the net. All of a sudden, South were back in the finals at Northcote’s expense, provided they could hang on. The halftime whistle was met with loud applause by all spectators in what had been an incredible end-to-end first half.
Northcote came out desperate in the second half but could not find a way to get past South’s defence. Glen Trifiro’s free kick went wide of Zeneli’s goal as South looked to slow the game down and grind out the draw. However with results filtering through that Hume City and Heidelberg were both losing, South also knew that a win would propel them up to at least third and with it a double chance in the finals. South nearly gifted Northcote a goal when captain Steven O’Dor’s backpass to Zeneli was hit too softly but Zeneli bravely came out and blocked the resultant shot, sustaining a minor injury at the same time. At the other end, Daniel Dragicevic had a couple of half-chances to score from long range but his shots were either wide of goal or comfortably saved by Treacey.
With time running out, Northcote needed to throw caution to the wind and commit more bodies forward. This left gaps in the back as Fernando De Moraes and Krncevic came close to adding a fourth goal for the home side. With news filtering through that both Hume and Heidelberg had lost, South now knew that a draw would propel them over the Bergers and into fourth spot, whilst a win would put them in the top three. Krncevic had been outstanding all afternoon but missed a golden chance to put South into third spot after heading wide of Treacey’s goal after being found unmarked at the back post. After four long and tense minutes of injury time, the referee’s final whistle was met with enormous cheers by the home supporters, as it confirmed a fourth place finish and an Elimination Final against Heidelberg next week.
In even better news for the Club, the Under-21s defeated Northcote 2-1 earlier in the day, which meant they won the Championship for the second year in a row. Nick Naigoran scored the winning goal on 76 minutes when he fired home an unstoppable shot from just inside the area.
South Melbourne FC plays Heidelberg United next Sunday 14 August at Port Melbourne’s SS Anderson Reserve in the 2011 Elimination Final. Kick-off is at 15:00.
FINAL SCORE: SOUTH MELBOURNE 3-3 NORTHCOTE CITY (HT: 3-3)
1-0: Jesse Krncevic (3′)
1-1: Glen Trifiro (4′)
1-2: Jonathan Voulgaris (24′)
1-3: Trent Rixon (33′)
2-3: Jesse Krncevic (38′)
3-3: Steven Weir (41′)
South Melbourne FC:
4. Steven O’DOR, 5. Daniel VASILEVSKI (33. Yanni GALANOS 89′), 6. Steven TOPALOVIC, 8. Carl RECCHIA, 11. Jesse KRNCEVIC, 15. Fernando DE MORAES (25. Kyle JORYEFF 80′), 16. Trent WATERSON, 17. Steven WEIR, 20. Daniel DRAGICEVIC (2. Tom MATTHEWS 69′), 21. Zaim ZENELI (GK), 23. Sebastian PETROVIC
1. Charles TREACEY (GK), 2. Adrian CHIAPPETTA, 3. Kristian KONSTANTINIDIS, 7. Jonathan VOULGARIS (8. Nick CURTIS 69′), 9. Trent RIXON, 10. Glen TRIFIRO, 11. Harry KINIGOPOULOS (16. Paul SAVIO 69′), 12. Hayden D’AGOSTINO (17. Gianni DE NITTIS 81′), 18. James KALAFATIDIS, 19. Dean PIERMONTE, 23. Jason TRIFIRO
SMFC Man of the Match: Jesse Krncevic
Venue: SS Anderson Reserve
Date: Sunday 7 August 2011