Monday, 16 September 2013 11:17 PM
By John Kyrou
South Melbourne FC’s finals aspirations suffered a huge blow when it could only draw 1-1 with Victorian Premier League leaders Northcote City at Lakeside Stadium on Saturday night. Captain Brad Norton gifted Evan Kounavelis the opening goal for the away side before Trent Rixon leveled the scores against his former Club.
South came into the game knowing that wins against Northcote and Port Melbourne in its final two VPL fixtures would guarantee it finals football, with any slip-ups allowing Green Gully the chance to jump into the five. Goran Lozanovski’s Northcote arrived at Lakeside Stadium knowing that a win would secure the Minor Premiership with a game to spare.
The away side dominated the first half with excellent free-flowing football and a high pressing game, with Milos Lujic looking extremely dangerous up front. He thought he had opened the scoring when he latched onto a through-ball and scored past the advancing Peter Gavalas, however the linesman flagged late for offside and the goal did not count. The next controversial moment arrived when referee Perry Mur denied South a penalty after Hayden D’Agostino looked to have dragged Luke Hopper down in the penalty area. In an end-to-end encounter, Lujic again came close to scoring but Shaun Kelly saved South’s blushes after clearing Lujic’s goal-bound shot off the line.
South coach Chris Taylor was furious in the second half when Hopper again looked to have been dragged back but once more no free kick was given by referee Mur. Hopper then missed South’s best chance of the match when he toe-poked the ball wide of Chris Petropoulos’ goal following a wonderful cross from the left. Lujic again went close for Northcote with a header that Gavalas tipped onto the crossbar before Michael Eager blasted a shot over his near post. The warning signs were there for South that they needed to be careful with their defending and they ultimately paid the price when Norton’s weak back-pass to Gavalas was intercepted by Kounavelis, who rounded Gavalas before scoring into the empty net to give Northcote the lead and put them on course for the Minor Premiership.
With time running out and their finals aspirations rapidly diminishing, South threw everything at Northcote and almost equalised when Hopper’s effort was cleared off the line and out for a corner. Nick Soolsma’s resultant corner was met at the back post by Rixon, whose header flew past Petropoulos and into the back of the net. Rixon has been in outstanding form, with seven goals in his last seven League matches. Northcote had the chance to win the game in the first minute of injury time but Alex Rojas’ weak free kick was easily saved by Gavalas. South pressed forward in one final attempt to score a dramatic winner but it was not to be, with Soolsma’s header flying over Petropoulos’ crossbar.
South is currently in fifth spot on the VPL ladder and is one point and +2 in goal difference ahead of Green Gully, however Gully has two games to play, the first being away against Oakleigh Cannons on Wednesday night before they host Dandenong Thunder in the final round. For South to qualify for the finals series, it must defeat Port Melbourne at Anderson Reserve next Sunday and hope that Green Gully drops points either against Oakleigh or Dandenong. If Green Gully wins their two remaining games, they will qualify for the finals irrespective of South’s result against Port Melbourne next Sunday.
It was bad news for the Under-21s as South Melbourne FC was defeated by Northcote City 2-0.
In the South Melbourne Legends vs. Victoria Police friendly match played before the Northcote game, both sides drew 2-2 with Mehmet Durakovic and Sam Poutakidis scoring South’s goals.
FINAL SCORE: SOUTH MELBOURNE 1-1 NORTHCOTE CITY (HT: 0-0)
0-1: Evan Kounavelis (75′)
1-1: Trent Rixon (83′)
Key Stats (Provided by Steven Orchard):
Shots: South Melbourne (16) – Northcote (11)
Saves: South Melbourne (6) – Northcote (5)
Turnovers: South Melbourne (87) – Northcote (65)
Balls into Area: South Melbourne (45) – Northcote (27)
Clearances: South Melbourne (10) – Northcote (22)
South Melbourne FC:
1. Peter GAVALAS (GK), 2. Tim MALA, 4. Bryan BRAN, 5. Nick EPIFANO (12. Rhys MEREDITH 74’), 7. Luke HOPPER, 9. Trent RIXON, 10. Tyson HOLMES, 11. Brad NORTON (C) (16. Alan KEARNEY 87’), 13. Iqi JAWADI, 17. Nick SOOLSMA, 19. Shaun KELLY
22. Chris PETROPOULOS (GK), 2. Adrian CHIAPPETTA, 4. Kristian KONSTANTINIDIS, 6. Bonel OBRADOVIC, 9. Milos LUJIC, 10. Alex ROJAS, 12. Hayden D’AGOSTINO, 14. Michael CATALANO (8. James KALIFATIDIS 76′), 17. Marinos GASPARIS (16. Nick TEREZAKIS 87’), 18. Michael EAGER, 20. Evan KOUNAVELIS
SMFC Man of the Match: Bryan Bran
Venue: Lakeside Stadium
Date: Saturday 14 September 2013