Monday, 10 September 2012 12:06 PM
By John Kyrou
South Melbourne FC hearts were broken on Sunday evening at Lakeside Stadium when the Blues conceded a second half injury time goal to draw 1-1 with the Bentleigh Greens. The result means that South mathematically can not challenge for the 2012 VPL finals series in the final round of the season next weekend and summed up what has been a horror season for the Blues.
With Green Gully losing 0-3 against the Dandenong Thunder and Southern Stars coming from behind to defeat Hume City 2-1, South went into the Bentleigh game knowing that a victory would see it climb to within 3 points of fourth-placed Gully and to within 2 points of fifth-placed Northcote City. With Gully and Northcote facing each other in the final round next week, a South win against Heidelberg in their final game would have seen the Blues more than likely finish in the five at either Gully or Northcote’s expense. However the first task was to defeat John Anastasiadis’ Bentleigh side that had not lost a League game since a 1-0 defeat against Richmond on Friday 6 July.
The home side dominated the first half but squandered chances as acting captain Fernando De Moraes and Joe Keenan both blasted shots over the crossbar. Bentleigh goalkeeper Griffin McMaster was counting himself lucky when he was caught out of his area and was nearly chipped from a fair distance by South youngster Andrew Cartanos. Luckily for the Greens custodian the ball landed on top of the goal instead of in it. McMaster then made a solid block to deny South striker Steve Burton as South got on top of their opponents. The Greens’ only real notable chance of the half came from a Luke Pilkington shot from the edge of the area that South goalkeeper Peter Gavalas comfortably saved.
South began the second half strongly as the home side knew that it had to score and win the game to have any chance of playing finals football. South should have had the lead when Keenan’s shot could only be parried by McMaster into the path of Burton, however despite an open goal the striker blasted wide in what was an absolutely golden opportunity wasted for the home side. Coach Peter Tsolakis needed to make changes to keep the side fresh and Shaun Kelly, Andy Vlahos and Phil Petreski were introduced into the game with under twenty minutes to go. The move paid off as Kelly began a move that culminated in Burton crossing in from the left for Vlahos to head past McMaster at the back post and give the home side a valuable 1-0 lead with only 12 minutes of normal time remaining.
South just needed to hold on to the lead and it would have been in a prime position next weekend to make the finals, however the final 10 minutes summed up what has truly been a season filled with unfortunate twists. Shortly after Vlahos’ goal. Glen Trifiro had to be carried off with what looked like a broken ankle following a tackle from a Greens player. With South having used up all three of its substitutes already, the home side had to defend its lead with only 10 men. It then went from bad to worse only minutes later when Dimi Tsiaras was given a straight red card for committing a foul as the last man. South now had to see the game out with only 9 men. Incredibly, Burton almost sealed the win for the home team but his low strike went narrowly wide of McMaster’s goal. South valiantly held on right up until the second minute of injury time when Bulloch found the back of the net with a neat finish despite a series of saves from Gavalas. It was a cruel way to end South’s finals hopes for 2012 but yet it was not surprising at the same time considering the lack of clean sheets and missed opportunities throughout the season.
South ends its season next Sunday against bottom-placed Heidelberg United at Olympic Village.
FINAL SCORE: SOUTH MELBOURNE 1-1 BENTLEIGH GREENS (HT: 0-0)
1-0: Andy Vlahos (78′)
1-1: Scott Bulloch (90+2′)
South Melbourne FC:
1. Peter GAVALAS (GK), 2. Tom MATTHEWS, 3. Rhodri PAYNE (5. Phil PETRESKI 71′), 6. Dimi TSIARAS (sent off 86′), 7. Joe KEENAN, 10. Glen TRIFIRO, 11. Brad NORTON, 12. Steve BURTON, 13. Luke BYLES, 15. Fernando DE MORAES (19. Shaun KELLY 76’), 20. Andrew CARTANOS (14. Andy VLAHOS 71′).
Griffin McMASTER (GK), Evan BATSIS, Nicholas CURTIS, Wayne WALLACE, Ryan DE VRIES, Paulo RETRE (Scott BULLOCH 83’), Aron WILFORD, Jack WEBSTER, Dominic D’ANGELO, Luke PILKINGTON, Steve HATZIKOSTAS (Andrija JUKIC 80’).
SMFC Man of the Match: Andrew Cartanos
Venue: Lakeside Stadium
Date: Sunday 9 September 2012