By John Kyrou
South Melbourne FC hosts its second home game of the National Premier League season when it welcomes the Bentleigh Greens to Lakeside Stadium on Sunday evening. With South sitting first on the NPL ladder and the Greens in third place, there is certainly a lot of interest and anticipation ahead of Sunday’s match.
Chris Taylor’s South Melbourne side head into the match having won their opening nine matches across all competitions in 2014, with the most recent being the 1-4 win against Berwick City in the Dockerty Cup Fifth Round on Wednesday night at Jack Thomas Reserve. South is the only side still yet to drop points in the NPL in 2014 and will be hoping to continue the winning run on Sunday. John Anastasiadis’ Bentleigh head into the game having surprisingly lost their last League match (3-2 against Green Gully on Saturday 3 May) after leading 1-2. It was their first loss of the season but they bounced back into winning form in midweek with a solid 3-1 victory against the Moreland Zebras in their Dockerty Cup tie at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex.
Bentleigh enjoys an excellent recent record against South at Lakeside Stadium, having won there on their last two visits. On both occasions, South has ended the game with nine men in a load of controversy. On Sunday 9 September 2012, Peter Tsolakis’ South side needed to defeat the Greens in order to keep their finals hopes alive. Andy Vlahos scored what looked like being the crucial goal after 78 minutes, however tragically a nine-man South (following a Dimi Tsiaras red card and an injury to Glen Trifiro after South had used all three substitutes) conceded a 92nd minute equaliser and missed the finals series by one point. On Sunday 21 July 2013, Nick Epifano scored in the second minute before goalkeeper Peter Gavalas was sent off and Iqi Jawadi received two controversial yellow cards as Bentleigh won 1-4. The nine South players remaining on the field were applauded off by the home support and were offered sympathy by Anastasiadis, who himself thought the score line was very flattering to his side.
It is expected that Jason Saldaris will return in goal on Sunday and that Nick Epifano, Brad Norton, Tyson Holmes, Jamie Reed and Mathew Theodore will return to the starting eleven, however all the fringe players impressed against Berwick City on Wednesday night and Taylor may spring a surprise or two in the starting eleven on Sunday.
Sunday’s match kicks off at 5PM at Lakeside Stadium. Those unable to make the game can follow it with live updates on the South Melbourne FC Facebook page and on the Club’s official Twitter @smfc with the hashtags #NPLVIC and #SMvBG.