Tuesday, 30 July 2013 9:35 AM
South Melbourne FC won its first Victorian Premier League match in two months after defeating Dandenong Thunder 6-2 at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Doubles from Nick Epifano and Trent Rixon, along with goals from Bryan Bran and Captain Brad Norton ensured South enjoyed a comfortable victory against the Thunder.
South came into the match on the back of a shocking run in the Victorian Premier League, having not won a League game since the 2-1 victory against Oakleigh Cannons on Sunday 26 May. Since then, South had only managed three points from seven League matches. Thankfully, two victories in the State Knockout Cup (on 10 June against Northcote City and on 23 July against Preston Lions) managed to break up the losing form. South’s previous League match against Bentleigh Greens last Sunday was a disaster, with goalkeeper Peter Gavalas and midfielder Iqi Jawadi both sent off in what turned out to be a 1-4 loss. Dandenong arrived at Lakeside Stadium having had last weekend off as its match against Richmond was abandoned due to inclement weather. Stuart Munro’s Thunder had a point to prove following the defection of Head Coach Chris Taylor, Jawadi, Bran, Epifano, Tim Mala and Luke Hopper from George Andrews Reserve to Lakeside Stadium during the transfer window.
Those arriving late to the Lakeside Stadium would not have believed the scoreboard that read 3-0 to South after only nine minutes. Epifano opened the scoring in the first minute when he got on the end of Hopper’s low cross to the back post to tap home. Rixon then doubled South’s lead after six minutes when Thunder goalkeeper Zaim Zeneli failed to hold onto Hopper’s initial shot, presenting the centre-forward with an easy tap-in. Centre-half Bran then rose highest to head home from Nick Soolsma’s corner to seemingly put the home side in complete control of the match with only nine minutes played.
Despite being three goals down, the Thunder pressed forward and pulled a goal back after 18 minutes when Eric Frazier headed Feston Azizi’s corner past South’s goalkeeper Chris Maynard, who arrived during the transfer window and replaced the suspended Gavalas and the injured Lajos Hun. The young goalkeeper was then left bewildered when the referee awarded a penalty against him for fouling Nate Foster when it looked like he had clearly claimed possession of the ball before the Dandenong striker went down in the box. Shane Rexhepi coolly sent Maynard the wrong way and all of a sudden the Thunder was only a goal behind with over an hour still to play. The score could very well have been 3-3 had Bran not brilliantly tackled Foster’s run into the area to deny him a one-on-one chance with Maynard. South also had to clear a goal-bound shot off the line as the Thunder finished the half the stronger of the two sides and were clapped off by their supporters.
It was a different story in the second half as South completely dominated; however it took a goalkeeping error from former South goalkeeper Zeneli to secure the three points from the home side. Zeneli’s throw slipped out of his hand and fell straight to Rixon, who saw the goalkeeper off his line and subsequently chipped the ball over him and into the empty net to give South a 4-2 lead. The lead was then stretched to 5-2 when Epifano pounced on a loose square pass in Dandenong’s defence before rounding Zeneli and slotting into the back of the net. The scoring was complete on 79 minutes when Dandenong failed to clear the ball in defence and Rixon cut the ball back for Norton to flick up before volleying into the top right corner of the net. Post match the players were cheered off by the home fans, who could finally enjoy a League win for the first time in two months.
After the match, Taylor felt ‘bitter-sweet’ about the victory, having led the Thunder to a League and Cup double last year, however he acknowledged that “it meant a lot for us (South) to win as well today.” The victory sees South sitting only a game out of the top five, placing huge importance on the next match that is away to second-bottom Richmond Eagles this Friday night.
It was further good news in the Under-21s as a Baggio Yousif double and a goal from Stefan Zinni gave South a 3-0 win against Dandenong.
FINAL SCORE: SOUTH MELBOURNE 6-2 DANDENONG THUNDER (HT: 3-2)
1-0: Nick Epifano (1′)
2-0: Trent Rixon (6′)
3-0: Bryan Bran (9′)
3-1: Eric Frazier (19′)
3-2: Shane Rexhepi (25′ pk)
4-2: Trent Rixon (53′)
5-2: Nick Epifano (66′)
6-2: Brad Norton (79′)
Key Stats (provided by Steven Orchard):
Shots: South Melbourne (13) – Dandenong Thunder (11)
On Target: South Melbourne (8) – Dandenong Thunder (7)
Off Target: South Melbourne (5) – Dandenong Thunder (4)
Offsides: South Melbourne (10) – Dandenong Thunder (3)
Turnovers: South Melbourne (37) – Dandenong Thunder (65)
Balls into Area: South Melbourne (30) – Dandenong Thunder (24)
Shots Blocked: South Melbourne (5) – Dandenong Thunder (0)
South Melbourne FC:
21. Chris MAYNARD (GK), 2. Tim MALA, 4. Bryan BRAN, 5. Nick EPIFANO (14. Andy VLAHOS (86′), 7. Luke HOPPER, 9. Trent RIXON (12. Rhys MEREDITH 83′), 10. Tyson HOLMES, 11. Brad NORTON (C), 16. Alan KEARNEY , 17. Nick SOOLSMA, 19. Shaun KELLY
1. Zaim ZENELI (GK), 4. Faisal SAFA (2. Brendan ELMAZOVSKI 74′), 6. Steven TOPALOVIC, 8. Matthew THEODORE, 10. Feston AZIZI (22. Sean MCILROY 59′), 11. Keegan ZIADA (17. Kieran DOVER 85′), 13. Shane REXHEPI, 16. Thomas SHANNON, 18. Craig ELVIN, 19. Nate FOSTER, 20. Eric FRAZIER
SMFC Man of the Match: Bryan Bran
Venue: Lakeside Stadium
Date: Sunday 28 July 2013