Monday, 15 July 2013 1:25 PM
By John Kyrou
South Melbourne FC battled for a disappointing 2-2 draw against bottom side Southern Stars at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday afternoon in a game that, in truth, the home side should consider itself lucky to take a point from. An early goal from Alan Kearney and a late goal from substitute Andy Vlahos gave South a share of the spoils against a very spirited Stars side.
South coach Chris Taylor gave debuts to mid-season signings Iqi Jawadi and Nick Epifano and gave Under-21s player Erdem Ozcagli a starting berth next to fellow youngster James Karvelis at centre-back. It was not an ideal centre-back pairing given the inexperience of the two players but injuries to Shaun Kelly and Dimi Tsiaras (both hamstrings) gave Taylor no choice. Trent Rixon was given a starting berth up front as Taylor gave him a chance to shine in front of the home crowd.
The home side took the lead after half an hour when Stars goalkeeper Abdul Koc decided to punch the ball away from danger instead of catching it following a Tyson Holmes cross into the area. With the goalkeeper off his line, Kearney delicately chipped the ball over him and into the back of the empty net to put South 1-0 up. Rixon then had two chances to bury the Stars but put one chance wide before Koc saved the other chance. This led to Rixon being substituted and replaced by Rhys Meredith. It was expected that South would go on and win the game comfortably but the Stars put that to bed in two minutes of madness for the home side shortly before halftime. Firstly Vincent Bontemps took on and beat Jawadi and Ozcagli on the left side before firing an unstoppable left-footed shot past Peter Gavalas in the South goal. Incredibly, the bottom-placed Stars then took the lead when Romanian debutant Cristian Cristea found himself unmarked in the box and fired home past Gavalas to stun the home players and crowd.
It was expected that the away side would put all eleven men behind the ball in the second half but to their credit the Southern Stars continued to attack the South defence. Only last ditch defending and some brilliant saves from Gavalas prevented South from going even further behind. Kalonzo Kabongo was presented with a tap-in but Dimi Hatzimouratis slid in at the last minute. Ali Hameed was then played through but blasted his shot over Gavalas’ crossbar. Hungarian debutant Jiri Kabele then cut the ball back for substitute Ali Turgut to be one-on-one with Gavalas but the South goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant save to deny him. Amongst all of this, Vlahos had come on as a 60th minute substitute and proved his worth when he was on hand at the back post to tap in Meredith’s low cross in the 72nd minute. South should have won the game in injury time when Koc didn’t properly deal with Vlahos’ cross but former South captain Rama Tavsancioglu saved the day for the Stars by clearing Meredith’s goal-bound shot off the line to ensure the away side shared the points with South.
Taylor was understandably disappointed post-game, noting that he was “not happy with how we played and not happy about the goals we conceded and the chances we missed…in the end it was probably a fair result but I can’t accept the two goals we conceded.”
The Under-21s got back into winning form with a solid 4-2 victory against the Stars. A hat trick from Baggio Yousif (39’, 45’ and 82’) and a goal from Anthony Giannopoulos (33’) won the game for the home side.
South has a big test next Sunday when it hosts the Bentleigh Greens at Lakeside Stadium. Kick-off is at 3PM.
FINAL SCORE: SOUTH MELBOURNE 2-2 SOUTHERN STARS (HT: 1-2)
1-0: Alan Kearney (31′)
1-1: Vincent Bontemps (41′)
1-2: Cristian Cristea (43′)
2-2: Andy Vlahos (72′)
Key Stats (provided by Steven Orchard):
Shots: SMFC (19) – Stars (12)
Saves: SMFC (4) – Stars (8)
Balls into Area: SMFC (52) – Stars (23)
Turnovers: SMFC (72) – Stars (65)
South Melbourne FC:
1. Peter GAVALAS (GK), 3. Erdem OZCAGLI, 5. Nick EPIFANO (14. Andy VLAHOS 60′), 9. Trent RIXON (12. Rhys MEREDITH 36′), 10. Tyson HOLMES, 11. Brad NORTON (C), 13. Iqi JAWADI, 15. Dimi HATZIMOURATIS, 16 Alan KEARNEY , 17. Nick SOOLSMA, 22. James KARVELIS
Abdulkerim KOC (GK), Joshua BOWEN, Andrew VIOLA, Rama TAVSANCIOGLU, Vincent BONTEMPS, Nicholas MCKOY, Ryan HERVEL, Ali HAMEED (Jiri KABELE 68’), Tamas NAGY (Luke BURGESS 46’), Kalonzo KABONGO, Cristian CRISTEA (Ali TURGUT 46’)
SMFC Man of the Match: Peter Gavalas
Venue: Lakeside Stadium
Date: Sunday 14 July 2013