By John Kyrou
South Melbourne FC’s lead at the top of the National Premier League Victoria ladder was cut to seven points following its 1-1 draw against Northcote City at John Cain Reserve on Saturday afternoon. Milos Lujic looked to have won the match for the away side with his goal after 73 minutes but Northcote levelled seven minutes later from former South player Jonathan Munoz’s penalty kick.
Chris Taylor’s South Melbourne side went into the game on a five game winning run in the League and came up against Goran Lozanovski’s Northcote side that had been unbeaten in their last five League matches. Right-back Tim Mala was missing from the South line-up after he accumulated his fifth yellow card of the season against the Melbourne Knights last Sunday and therefore served his mandatory one-match suspension against Northcote. Brad Norton was recalled into the starting eleven and replaced Shaun Timmins at left back as Timmins switched sides and filled in for Mala at right back.
With the John Cain Reserve pitch in such poor condition, both teams would have most likely accepted a draw if it was offered to them pre-match. Indeed, both sides offered so little in the first half that it appeared they were both happy to take a point each and move on to next week.
The second half was a more lively affair as South slowly worked their way on top of Northcote and carved out good opportunities to open the scoring. Tyson Holmes – in his 50th appearance for South across all competitions – had an excellent chance to open the scoring but Northcote goalkeeper Chris Petropoulos saved Holmes’ effort at his near post. Nick Epifano was then played through on goal but the ball bobbled on the uneven surface as he was about to shoot and the subsequent shot went harmlessly wide and out for a goal kick.
The deadlock was finally broken with just seventeen minutes of normal time remaining. Iqi Jawadi won possession of the ball and found Holmes with a pass, who then put Lujic through on goal for the centre-forward to fire a low shot across Petropoulos and into the bottom left corner of the goal. It was Lujic’s 15th League goal of the season (from 19 games) and 16th goal across all competitions (from 23 games) in 2014.
It seemed that South had done enough to get the three points but Northcote levelled only seven minutes later. South goalkeeper Jason Saldaris charged out to clear the danger after a long ball was played forward but he mis-kicked the ball. With no goalkeeper in the way of the goal, Liam Wooding went to shoot but was denied a shot thanks to an excellent ball-winning tackle by Brad Norton. Unfortunately for the away side, the referee blew his whistle for a penalty kick after judging Norton to have fouled Wooding inside the area, despite mass protesting from the South players. Norton was given a yellow card for his troubles as Munoz calmly stepped up and buried his spot kick past Saldaris, who guessed the correct way to his left but couldn’t make the save.
Both sides pressed for the win in the last ten minutes. In the final minute of regular time, Wade Dekker’s cross was deflected off James Musa and hit Saldaris’ near post before going out for a corner. In the first minute of injury time, Holmes found space inside the six yard box and drove a low shot across the goal and out of play. With almost the final play of the game, Lujic was put through one-on-one with Petropoulos but the keeper won out with an excellent block to deny Lujic a second goal and South the three points.
Post-match, Taylor was disappointed that his side didn’t make the most of their opportunities when they presented themselves, adding that “we spoke at the break about not making any errors…unfortunately we gifted them a goal and it (winning the game) just wasn’t to be today.”
There was good news in the NPL 20s as South Melbourne smashed Northcote City 1-4 thanks to goals from Josh Markovski, Tim Kakoliris, Andy Kecojevic and an own goal by Northcote.
South Melbourne FC’s next match is against Pascoe Vale this coming Friday 1 August, with kick-off at 7:30PM. Please note that South’s match against the Bentleigh Greens originally scheduled for Tuesday 29 July has now been moved to Wednesday 6 August at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex at 8:30PM due to Bentleigh’s participation in the FFA Cup this week.
FINAL SCORE: NORTHCOTE CITY 1-1 SOUTH MELBOURNE (HT: 0-0)
0-1: Milos Lujic (73′)
1-1: Jonathan Munoz (80’p)
22. Chris PETROPOULOS (GK), 2. Adrian CHIAPPETTA (C), 4. Kristian KONSTANTINIDIS, 5. Phil PETRESKI, 6. Aaron WARD (3. Nasr SAID 87′), 7. Jonathan MUNOZ, 10. Marinos GASPARIS (23. Jonathan BOUNAS 59′), 11. Liam WOODING, 14. Michael CATALANO (17. Anthony RIZK 70′), 15. Wade DEKKER, 16. Greg LOMBARDO.
South Melbourne FC:
1. Jason SALDARIS (GK), 4. Michael EAGAR (C), 7. Nick EPIFANO (27. Leigh MINOPOULOS 84′), 9. Milos LUJIC, 10. Tyson HOLMES, 11. Brad NORTON, 12. Iqi JAWADI, 14. James MUSA, 17. Jamie REED (8. Mathew THEODORE 76′), 25. Shaun TIMMINS, 77. Stephen HATZIKOSTAS.
SMFC Man of the Match: Iqi Jawadi
Venue: John Cain Reserve
Date: Saturday 26 July 2014