Monday, 30 September 2013 12:23 PM
By John Kyrou
South Melbourne FC progressed to the Victorian Premier League Minor Semi Final after prevailing 1-0 against Green Gully in the 2013 Elimination Final. Tyson Holmes’ winning goal in second half injury time sparked scenes not witnessed for a long time at Lakeside Stadium with euphoric celebrations in the stands by the 2,773 fans in attendance.
South came into the match having demolished Port Melbourne 0-4 at SS Anderson Reserve on the final day of the regular season to qualify for the finals series. Green Gully also qualified for the finals on the final day thanks to a 3-1 victory against Dandenong Thunder at Green Gully Reserve. The two sides had already met on three occasions throughout 2013 in both League and Cup competitions, with South prevailing 0-3 on the opening day of the League season at Green Gully Reserve (Saturday 6 April) before losing to Gully 1-3 in the return League fixture at Lakeside Stadium (Sunday 7 July) and losing again 0-1 in the Cup Semi Final (Wednesday 21 August) at SS Anderson Reserve.
South had the better of the first half in the Elimination Final but could not finish off the chances it created, with Nick Epifano coming closest to scoring when his shot across goal beat Gully goalkeeper Kieran Gonzalez but not the far post as Gully were let off the hook. The away side had half-chances of their own during the second half but apart from a timely block by South goalkeeper Peter Gavalas, South was mostly untroubled by a Gully side seemingly happy to soak up the pressure and take the game to extra time. Despite Gully’s laid-back approach, history has shown their ability to grind out results in finals matches and although South was on top for the majority of the game, Chris Taylor’s team needed a goal to break Gully’s back. Trent Rixon had an excellent opportunity to do just that from Luke Hopper’s cross but he put his chance wide.
The match was still 0-0 with five minutes remaining and was seemingly heading for extra time until there were shouts for a penalty following a handball in the box by a Green Gully defender. Initially referee Perry Mur did not award the penalty – nor did he see his linesman’s flag raised for a penalty – however, after a lengthy consultation with his linesman he eventually awarded the spot kick. Substitute Brad Norton – who had only come on to the field four minutes earlier – stepped up to take the penalty but his weak shot to Gonzalez’s left was saved by the goalkeeper. It seemed that South had blown their chance to win in regular time but there was one more twist to come as the clock ticked over into the first minute of injury time. Norton and Alan Kearney exchanged passes before the ball was played to Nick Soolsma outside the box. Soolsma looked to shoot before teeing the ball off for Holmes to fire into the bottom corner of the net and send the entire grandstand into raptures as the players and coaching staff celebrated wildly with an ecstatic Holmes.
South had to endure another nervy four minutes of injury time before Perry Mur’s final whistle confirmed a win and a visit to Somers Street this Friday night for a Minor Semi Final date with the Melbourne Knights. It is the first time that both the Melbourne Knights and South have featured in the same finals series since the 2001/02 NSL season and it is the first time that the two rivals of Victorian football have faced each other in a finals match since Sunday 4 May 1997. On that evening at Lakeside Stadium, goals from Michael Curcija (1’, 25’) and Steve Panopoulos (32’) gave South a 3-0 victory in the second leg of the 1996/97 NSL Elimination Final (South won the first leg at Somers Street 1-4 on Sunday 27 April 1997 for a 7-1 aggregate win). Ironically, in South’s last VPL Championship year (2006), it hosted and defeated Green Gully at Lakeside Stadium in the First Elimination Final (Friday 1 September 2006) before travelling to Somers Street the following week and winning again, however that match was played against Altona Magic not the Melbourne Knights.
FINAL SCORE: SOUTH MELBOURNE 1-0 GREEN GULLY (HT: 0-0)
1-0: Tyson Holmes (90+1′)
Key Stats (provided by Steven Orchard):
Shots: South Melbourne (16) – Green Gully (4)
Saves: South Melbourne (2) – Green Gully (6)
Turnovers: South Melbourne (76) – Green Gully (62)
Balls into Area: South Melbourne (40) – Green Gully (32)
South Melbourne FC:
1. Peter GAVALAS (GK), 2. Tim MALA, 4. Bryan BRAN, 5. Nick EPIFANO (11. Brad NORTON 81′), 7. Luke HOPPER, 9. Trent RIXON (C), 10. Tyson HOLMES, 13. Iqi JAWADI, 16. Alan KEARNEY, 17. Nick SOOLSMA, 19. Shaun KELLY
Kieran GONZALEZ (GK), Daniel JONES, Shaun TIMMINS, Mitchell BISSINGER, Stephen DOWNES, Jeffrey FLEMING, Jason HAYNE, Brent FISHER (Hamid BASMA 60’), Mathew SANDERS, Sean HARDING, Andy VARGAS
SMFC Man of the Match: Tyson Holmes
Venue: Lakeside Stadium
Date: Sunday 29 September 2013