By John Kyrou (Photo by Cindy Nitsos)
South Melbourne FC maintained its four-point lead at the top of the National Premier League Victoria ladder when it defeated Heidelberg United 3-0 in the derby at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday evening. An own goal from Steven Pace, a strike from outside the box by Mathew Theodore and a header by Milos Lujic – all in the first half – settled the derby and gave South a maximum six points against the Bergers in 2014.
Chris Taylor made two changes from last Sunday’s disappointing home draw against the Goulburn Valley Suns, as Leigh Minopoulos and Brad Norton replaced Jamie Reed and Andrew Mullett in the starting eleven against the Bergers. Transfer window signing Stephen Hatzikostas was given a spot on the bench as Taylor looked for an immediate response from his side against a Bergers side that they defeated 0-3 at the Olympic Village in the opening game of the season back on Thursday 13 March.
The home side opened the scoring after only three minutes, when Pace bundled Nick Epifano’s low cross into his own net in an attempt to prevent Lujic from getting on the end of the cross. South doubled its lead in the tenth minute when Theodore hit a left-footed strike from outside the box that gave Ryan Norval no chance in the Bergers goal. The match was finished as a contest just shy of the half-hour mark when Norton played a 1-2 on the left side before crossing perfectly to the back post for Lujic to head the ball past a helpless Norval. Lujic should have had a second goal just before the halftime break when he was played through one-on-one with Norval but his shot across goal hit the far post and stayed out.
In the second half, Heidelberg almost caught South goalkeeper Jason Saldaris out of his goal with a lob from distance but he just managed to scramble back and keep the ball out despite howls from the away support that the ball had crossed the goal line. South tried to add to their goals tally but were denied by some excellent saves from Norval, with his best being to deny Epifano in a one-on-one situation. In the end the home side had to settle for a second consecutive 3-0 win against their old rivals in 2014 and with that its four-point lead at the top of the NPL ladder maintained for another week.
Post-match, Captain Michael Eagar noted that “this [win] was big for the Club, it’s a local derby and it was important that we got the win to steady the ship after the past few weeks”. Taylor added that “we were very poor last weekend and we needed to fix that up tonight. We played very well and I’m pleased for everyone.”
In the NPL 20s match, South Melbourne and Heidelberg United played out a 1-1 draw, with Josh Markovski scoring South’s goal.
South have more derbies coming up this week, firstly against the Melbourne Knights in the Dockerty Cup Quarter Final on Wednesday night (7:30PM kick-off) before a League meeting with Port Melbourne on Sunday evening (5PM kick-off). Both matches will be played at Lakeside Stadium.
FINAL SCORE: SOUTH MELBOURNE 3-0 HEIDELBERG UNITED (HT: 3-0)
1-0: Own Goal (3′)
2-0: Mathew Theodore (10′)
3-0: Milos Lujic (29′)
Key Stats (Provided by Steven Orchard):
Shots: SMFC (13) – HUFC (6)
Balls into Final Third: SMFC (30) – HUFC (16)
Turnovers: SMFC (60) – HUFC (63)
Clearances: SMFC (6) – HUFC (12)
South Melbourne FC:
1. Jason SALDARIS (GK), 2. Tim MALA, 4. Michael EAGAR (C), 7. Nick EPIFANO, 8. Mathew THEODORE, 9. Milos LUJIC (17. Jamie REED 79′), 10. Tyson HOLMES (77. Stephen HATZIKOSTAS 79′), 11. Brad NORTON, 12. Iqi JAWADI, 14. James MUSA (6. Dimi TSIARAS 79′), 27. Leigh MINOPOULOS.
20. Ryan NORVAL (GK), 3. Les DOUMBALIS, 4. Jordan WILKES, 6. Paul MILLER, 7. Jakob WILLIAMS (5. Daniel VASILEVSKI 45′), 9. Kosta KANAKARIS (2. Peter KRATKY 45′), 10. Jack PETRIE, 11. Mark McGOUGH, 14. Dan HEFFERNAN, 17. Steven PACE, 23. Andrew CARTANOS.
SMFC Man of the Match: Brad Norton
Venue: Lakeside Stadium
Date: Sunday 22 June 2014