By John Kyrou (Photo courtesy of John Punshon of Goal! Weekly)
Green Gully was defeated by South Melbourne FC 3-5 in an extraordinary match at Green Gully Reserve on Saturday afternoon that featured eight goals, two red cards and seven minutes of second-half injury time. Milos Lujic scored his first hat-trick for South as fellow forwards Jamie Reed and Leigh Minopoulos scored the other two goals.
Chris Taylor’s South Melbourne side travelled to Green Gully keen on winning for a second consecutive time at the venue, having won there 0-3 on the opening day of last season on Saturday 6 April 2013. The first half of Saturday’s match was practically perfect, with four goals in the opening half hour and with a halftime score that read 0-4 in favour of the visitors. South opened the scoring in the fifth minute when Gully goalkeeper Kieran Gonzalez could only parry Nick Epifano’s cross into Lujic’s path and he had no problem putting the ball into the back of the net. Lujic doubled his – and South’s – tally for the afternoon ten minutes later when Gonzalez’s attempted clearance of a back-pass rebounded off the big centre-forward and into the back of the net.
Lujic had his hat-trick after 26 minutes when he met Tyson Holmes’ low cross at the back post to easily score and give South an incredible 0-3 lead. It was 0-4 only five minutes later when Epifano played a lovely ball for Reed to run onto and chip the ball over the advancing Gonzalez and into the back of the net. Epifano himself could have scored virtually straight after the re-start after gaining possession of the ball and easily charging through Gully’s defence but his shot hit the post and was cleared. Gully had been completely bamboozled but slowly worked their way back into the match and almost made the score 1-4 before the break when Roddy Vargas’ header beat South goalkeeper Jason Saldaris but the ball hit the crossbar and stayed out.
The home side came out firing in the second half and pulled two goals back in the opening four minutes thanks to Matthew Sanders scoring a double. His first came when he got a connection to the ball following a strong forward run by Stephen Downes and his second arrived via a turn and shot on the left foot that beat Saldaris. With the score 2-4 after 49 minutes and with South now clearly rattled, Gully pressed forward with purpose and had Osagie Ederaro causing plenty of problems on the left side. With so much time left in the match, South needed to try and regain possession of the ball and slow the game down.
The away side got the break they needed after 65 minutes when Gonzalez unnecessarily kicked out at Lujic after the centre-forward had been flagged as offside but decided to try and get the ball past the goalkeeper anyway. What may have been a yellow card for Lujic for time-wasting was now a red card for Gonzalez and the momentum had swung back South’s way. In farcical scenes, Gully substituted reserve goalkeeper Dilen Ibrahim onto the field to replace Gonzalez but failed to sacrifice an outfield player and therefore tried to continue playing with 11 players on the field. The South bench – Taylor in particular – screamed out for the referee to do a head count and this eventually lead to Andy Vargas being the outfield player to be substituted.
The match calmed down following that incident but it flared up again four minutes from time when Downes was sent off for dissent. Downes initially went to sit down on the team bench before being ordered by the referee to go back into the change rooms. The referee then performed a head count to make sure that the home side actually had only 9 men on the park. With two less men on the field, a two goal deficit and time rapidly running out, everything looked to be going against Gully; however the home side remarkably pulled another goal back in the first minute of injury time when Vargas put the ball in the back of the net from a set piece. South supporters were fearing the worst when possession was gifted back to Gully following the kick-off but the nerves soon turned to relief in the fourth minute of injury time when Reed cut the ball back for the substitute Minopoulos to tuck away South’s fifth of the afternoon.
Post-match, Taylor was happy to take the three points but was disappointed in the manner that South allowed Gully to almost snatch an unthinkable draw. “In the first half we were fantastic but again we were sloppy with some of the goals we conceded…however three points is three points and we look forward to next week.” The win keeps South on top of the NPL ladder and continues its perfect 100% winning record in 2014, with three wins in the League and one in the Dockerty Cup.
The news was not as good in the NPL 20s, as Green Gully defeated South 2-0.
South travels to the newly refurbished Broadmeadows Valley Park next Sunday 13 April to face Hume City, with kick-off at 3PM. Victory over Hume will make it the first time in South’s 55 year history that it has won four consecutive away matches to begin a season.
FINAL SCORE: GREEN GULLY 3-5 SOUTH MELBOURNE (HT: 0-4)
0-1: Milos Lujic (5′)
0-2: Milos Lujic (15′)
0-3: Milos Lujic (26′)
0-4: Jamie Reed (31′)
1-4: Matthew Sanders (47′)
2-4: Matthew Sanders (49′)
3-4: Roddy Vargas (90+1′)
3-5: Leigh Minopoulos (90+4′)
Key Stats (provided by Steven Orchard):
Shots: GG (17) – SMFC (18)
Turnovers: GG (73) – SMFC (55)
Balls into Final Third: GG (35) – SMFC (44)
Clearances: GG (12) – SMFC (15)
1. Kieran GONZALEZ (GK) (sent off 65′), 2. Daniel JONES, 4. Mitchell BISSINGER, 5. Roddy VARGAS, 6. Stephen DOWNES (sent off 86′), 7. Jeffrey FLEMING (10. Jem BERKANT 85’), 8. Jason HAYNE, 12. Mathew SANDERS, 17. Andy VARGAS (23. Dilen IBRAHIM [GK] 67’), 20. Osagie EDERARO, 21. Brian VANEGA (16. Sean HARDING 45’).
South Melbourne FC:
1. Jason SALDARIS (GK), 2. Tim MALA, 4. Michael EAGAR, 7. Nick EPIFANO (27. Leigh MINOPOULOS 75’), 8. Mathew THEODORE (20. Slaven VRANESEVIC 90’), 9. Milos LUJIC, 10. Tyson HOLMES, 11. Brad NORTON (3. Andrew MULLETT 90+4’), 12. Iqi JAWADI, 14. James MUSA, 17. Jamie REED.
SMFC Man of the Match: Milos Lujic
Venue: Green Gully Reserve
Date: Saturday 5 April 2014