Sunday, 7 April 2013 9:16 PM
By John Kyrou
South Melbourne FC opened the 2013 Victorian Premier League season in style with a professional 0-3 victory against Green Gully at Green Gully Reserve on Saturday afternoon. A first-half header from Brad Norton and second-half goals from Marinos Gasparis and Renco Van Eeken sealed the three points for South, who won at Green Gully for the first time in almost 27 years.
It was well documented that South had not won at Green Gully since 8 September 1986. In fairness, the sides did not meet each other for many years between 1986 and 2005 as South remained in the National Soccer League whilst Green Gully returned to the Victorian Premier League. Regardless, South had not been victorious at Green Gully Reserve for nearly 27 years and since returning to the Premier League in 2005 the Blues had failed to win in nine attempts (including a penalty shoot-out loss in the 2005 finals series).
South were dealt with a major blow going into the match, with the news that right-back Tom Matthews had broken his arm during the week and would be missing for 4-5 weeks. This was on top of Carl Recchia’s season-ending knee injury and Dimi Tsiaras already missing for the Gully match through suspension. Coach Peter Tsolakis made a bold move in putting a forward player in Dimi Hatzimouratis into Matthews’ right-back role. Van Eeken, Alan Kearney, Tyson Holmes and Rhys Meredith all made their debuts for South, whilst Luke Byles captained the side for the first time following Steven O’Dor’s retirement at the end of the 2012 season.
The away side began the match strongly, applying plenty of pressure on Gully’s defence. After half an hour South were awarded a penalty when Gully keeper Kieran Gonzalez was judged to have brought down Van Eeken as he challenged for a header. The penalty seemed unfortunate against Gonzalez, however the goalkeeper stood tall and saved Van Eeken’s spot kick to keep the scores at 0-0. The opening goal arrived only five minutes later, when Kearney’s cross from the left side was headed home by Norton. Gully almost equalised before the break but a header from a corner kick was put wide of Peter Gavalas’ goal.
The home side were more lively in the second half but the South defence comfortably dealt with any dangerous crosses into the box by Andy Vargas and continued to assert their authority on the match. The three points were sealed just before the hour mark, when Van Eeken provided a defence-splitting through-ball for Gasparis to run onto before chipping the advancing Gonzalez for South’s second goal of the afternoon. Van Eeken turned from provider to scorer when he latched onto a through-ball from Meredith and put the ball past Gonzalez and into the back of the net for a goal on his debut. South could have had even more goals but in the end were more than happy to settle for three goals, a clean sheet, three points and a near 27 year long hoodoo finally broken.
In the Under-21s match played prior to the Seniors, a Baggio Yousif goal was not enough as Green Gully scored two late goals to defeat South 2-1.
South’s next match is away against the Southern Stars at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex next Saturday 13 April at 6:00PM.
FINAL SCORE: GREEN GULLY 0-3 SOUTH MELBOURNE (HT: 0-1)
0-1: Brad Norton (35′)
0-2: Marinos Gasparis (57′)
0-3: Renco Van Eeken (80′)
Key Stats (provided by Steven Orchard):
Total shots: Green Gully (5) – South Melbourne (20)
Shots on target: Green Gully (1) – South Melbourne (8)
Corners: Green Gully (5) – South Melbourne (8)
Saves made: Green Gully (5) – South Melbourne (1)
Kieran GONZALEZ (GK), Daniel JONES, Mitchell BISSINGER, Stephen DOWNES, Jason HAYNE (Michael ANDERSON 65′), Tom CAHILL, Matthew SANDERS (Osagie EDERARO 78′), Sean HARDING (Christopher DIB 90+1′), Andy VARGAS, Brian VANEGA, Scott MUIRHEAD
South Melbourne FC:
01. Peter GAVALAS (GK), 07. Joe KEENAN (05. Phil PETRESKI 83′), 10. Tyson HOLMES, 11. Brad NORTON, 12. Rhys MEREDITH (14. Andy VLAHOS 85′), 13. Luke BYLES (C), 15. Dimi HATZIMOURATIS, 16. Alan KEARNEY, 18. Marinos GASPARIS (20. Andrew CARTANOS 77′), 19. Shaun KELLY, 23. Renco VAN EEKEN
SMFC Man of the Match: Alan Kearney
Venue: Green Gully Reserve
Date: Saturday 6 April 2013