By John Kyrou (Photo by Cindy Nitsos)
South Melbourne FC became the first team to win in Victoria’s new National Premier League by defeating Heidelberg United 0-3 at the Olympic Village on Thursday night. First half goals from Mathew Theodore and Milos Lujic and a late second half header from Jamie Reed sealed the three points for the away side.
Chris Taylor’s side seemed to be in control from the kick-off, which was delayed by 15 minutes to allow for the official crowd of 3175 to come in through the gates. After some early promising forward bursts, South took the lead in the 13th minute when Heidelberg failed to clear the ball properly and Theodore’s thunderous shot flew into the back of the net, despite Heidelberg goalkeeper Griffin McMaster getting his fingertips to the ball as it went past him. It was just reward for a South side that had started the game very well.
South had disposed of the ‘tiki-taka’ football that it had tried to play in recent seasons and instead Taylor’s side resorted to direct, counter-attacking football to Lujic and Reed. Michael Eagar was excellent at centre-half, as were Tim Mala at right-back and Nick Epifano on the left side of midfield. South’s pressure on the Bergers defence paid off in the 21st minute when the home side again failed to deal with danger and Lujic coolly chipped the ball over the advancing McMaster and into the unguarded goal for a comfortable 0-2 lead. The away side should have had a third goal right on the halftime break, when Epifano made a fantastic run down the left side and fired in a perfect cross to the back post for the unmarked Lujic but the big centre-forward headed the ball over McMaster’s crossbar.
The second half was a low-key affair, with South happy to sit back and hold onto its two goal lead. Heidelberg improved in the second half but was unable to really trouble South goalkeeper Jason Saldaris, with the South custodian’s only real test being to save a few shots from Paul Miller and Daniel Vasilevski that came at him. With three minutes of normal time remaining, South wrapped up the match when Heidelberg allowed Epifano through on the left side and his cross found an unmarked Reed to head past McMaster and round out the scoring. All three goals came from South debutants and most pleasing for South was the fact that their two forwards Lujic and Reed both scored and linked up well together.
Captain Michael Eagar mentioned how “we talked during the week about how this game was a big derby and how we needed to get off to a good start. I thought we played well.” Taylor was pleased with the result but warned the side not to become too complacent. “They made us work hard being a derby…it was a good result but there were areas that we can improve on and we will look to do so ahead of the next match.”
There are no League matches next weekend (22-23 March) due to the Fourth Round of the Dockerty Cup being played (the round that the NPL and NPL1 sides enter the Cup). The draw was conducted during the week by Football Federation Victoria, with South drawn to play against NPL1 side Sunshine George Cross. The FFV has not confirmed the date, time and venue of the game yet so South fans are encouraged to keep checking social media and the official website for confirmation either this weekend or early next week.
FINAL SCORE: HEIDELBERG UNITED 0-3 SOUTH MELBOURNE (HT: 0-2)
0-1: Mathew Theodore (13’)
0-2: Milos Lujic (21’)
0-3: Jamie Reed (87’)
1. Griffin McMASTER (GK), 2. Peter KRATKY, 3. Les DOUMBALIS, 4. Jordan WILKES, 5. Daniel VASILEVSKI, 6. Paul MILLER, 10. Jack PETRIE (9. Kosta KANAKARIS 83’), 13. Luke BYLES, 14. Dan HEFFERNAN, 17. Steven PACE (7. Stefan BARICEVIC 70’), 23. Andrew CARTANOS (11. Mark McGOUGH 58’)
South Melbourne FC:
1. Jason SALDARIS (GK), 2. Tim MALA, 4. Michael EAGAR (C), 6. Dimi TSIARAS, 7. Nick EPIFANO, 8. Mathew THEODORE (5. Leigh MINOPOULOUS 75’), 9. Milos LUJIC, 10. Tyson HOLMES, 11. Brad NORTON, 12. Iqi JAWADI, 17. Jamie REED (20. Slaven VRANESEVIC 90’)
SMFC Man of the Match: Michael Eagar
Venue: Olympic Village
Date: Thursday 13 March 2014