Monday, 23 September 2013 4:29 PM
By John Kyrou
South Melbourne FC secured its spot in the 2013 Victorian Premier League finals series with a commanding 0-4 victory against Port Melbourne in the final round of the regular season. Tyson Holmes opened the scoring in the first half before a Trent Rixon double and a header from substitute Brad Norton ensured a fourth-placed finish on the VPL ladder and the right to host Green Gully in the elimination final next Sunday evening.
Both sides went into the final day of the season in the top five standings, however with sixth-placed Green Gully expected to beat Dandenong Thunder and climb into the five themselves, it was very likely that this game would be the ‘elimination final before the elimination final’. Port Melbourne had the advantage of just needing to avoid defeat to make the finals whereas South needed the three points to guarantee themselves a top five spot. With Port having defeated South 0-1 at Lakeside Stadium in the reverse fixture earlier in the season on 30 June, South knew that it needed to work hard in order to win the match.
The away side enjoyed large periods of dominance in the first half as they put Port Melbourne on the back foot. South took the lead just after the quarter-hour when Holmes headed Nick Epifano’s cross past Adam Hrehoresin and into the back of the net. With word filtering through that Green Gully had taken the lead against Dandenong, it was becoming more obvious that South needed a second goal in order to give it some breathing space. Peter Gavalas made a vital block from substitute Tim Paton as South held its slender lead at the halftime break, putting it on course for a place in the finals.
As word spread that Gully had doubled their lead early in the second half, Gavalas again made an important save to keep South ahead. Having not kept a clean sheet since the 0-0 draw against Pascoe Vale all the way back on 1 June, South coach Chris Taylor knew it was vital that his side score again. With twenty minutes to go, the all-important second goal arrived when referee Shaun Evans awarded a spot-kick following a Port Melbourne handball in the penalty area. Rixon stepped up and buried his penalty under Hrehoresin to double the away side’s lead and start the celebrations early. Only minutes later Lambros Honos was sent off for Port Melbourne as he kicked out at Rixon as he ran past him, as Port coach Eric Vassiliadis was also sent off from the bench after questioning the decision.
With a two goal lead and an extra man, South turned on the style and blew Port away with two more goals late in the game. Rixon got his second for the afternoon when he tapped home after Hrehoresin could only parry Epifano’s shot into the big centre-forward’s path. Brad Norton replaced Epifano after 86 minutes and it was the substitute who scored the final goal of the day when he flew in at the back post to head Rixon’s perfect cross past Hrehoresin and wrap up the 0-4 score line. The final result not only guaranteed South a finals spot but also secured a fourth-placed finish and the right to host Green Gully in the elimination final at Lakeside Stadium next Sunday 29 September at 5PM.
When asked post-match about whether he believed South could win the Championship from fourth place, Taylor replied “I believe that this team can…I’m very proud of how the boys played today and I think a few teams will fear us in the finals series.” The winner of the elimination final will play the loser of the Melbourne Knights-Bentleigh Greens minor semi-final for a spot in the preliminary final.
It was further good news in the Under-21s as South defeated Port Melbourne 4-1 to end the season on a good note. Baggio Yousif scored twice as the other two goals came from Francis Solano and Jeffrey Salazar.
In the Most Valuable Player night held at Beachcomber Café post-game, the following players were recognised for their fantastic efforts in 2013:
Theo Marmaras Medal: Peter Gavalas (17 votes)
SMFC Media Award: Bryan Bran
Golden Boot Winner: Trent Rixon (9 League goals)
FINAL SCORE: PORT MELBOURNE 0-4 SOUTH MELBOURNE (HT: 0-1)
0-1: Tyson Holmes (16′)
0-2: Trent Rixon (70’pk)
0-3: Trent Rixon (84′)
0-4: Brad Norton (90′)
1. Adam HREHORESIN (GK), 2. Peter ROBERTS (9. Luke BOWEN 65’), 3. Martin MASON, 5. Felix ROSMAN, 6. Chris GROSSMAN, 10. Graham HOCKLESS, 12. Phillip RICCOBENE (4. Tim PATON 22’), 15. Luke PRELEVIC (14. Kamal IBRAHIM 60’), 19. Daniel VISEVIC, 23. Jake NAKIC, 26. Lambros HONOS (sent off 74′)
South Melbourne FC:
1. Peter GAVALAS (GK), 2. Tim MALA, 4. Bryan BRAN, 5. Nick EPIFANO (11. Brad NORTON 86′), 7. Luke HOPPER (12. Rhys MEREDITH 81′), 9. Trent RIXON (C), 10. Tyson HOLMES, 13. Iqi JAWADI, 16. Alan KEARNEY, 17. Nick SOOLSMA (18. Jonathan MUNOZ 90+2′), 19. Shaun KELLY
SMFC Man of the Match: Tyson Holmes
Venue: SS Anderson Reserve
Date: Sunday 22 September 2013