By John Kyrou (Photo by Cindy Nitsos)
South Melbourne FC maintained its seven point lead at the top of the National Premier League Victoria ladder when it defeated Pascoe Vale 0-3 at Hosken Reserve last Friday night. Two goals from Leigh Minopoulos and a penalty by Milos Lujic won the three points for South, putting them ten points ahead of Oakleigh temporarily before the Cannons trimmed the margin back to seven points by defeating Northcote City 1-3 on Sunday afternoon.
Shaun Timmins made way for the returning Tim Mala at right back as Brad Norton kept his spot at left back. Jamie Reed and Nick Epifano were missing from the starting eleven, with Reed not even named on the bench after suffering an injury against Northcote last Saturday 26 July. Mathew Theodore and Minopoulos replaced them in the starting eleven against Pascoe Vale.
Pascoe Vale started the match stronger than their South opponents and Vitale Ferrante’s side should have opened the scoring in the first half. Michael Ferrante had a chance that went over Jason Saldaris’ crossbar. Saldaris was then called upon to save his team by making an important block to deny former South forward Joseph Youssef, who managed to get behind the South defence before firing his shot straight at the goalkeeper. With the rain bucketing down at Hosken Reserve, South needed a break and it got what it was after when Iqi Jawadi played a defence-splitting through-ball for Minopoulos to run onto and calmly slip the ball past the advancing Pascoe Vale goalkeeper Stefaan Sardelic.
The match exploded to life ten minutes into the second half when a routine goalkeeping catch for Pascoe Vale resulted in a red card and a penalty to South. Sardelic jumped up to catch a routine cross before unnecessarily kicking out at the incoming Tyson Holmes’ chest on his way down. It was an unnecessary act and very uncharacteristic of the former South goalkeeper, who was instantly dismissed from the field by the referee. Reserve goalkeeper Yaren Sozer was substituted on in place of outfield player Nathen Megic and his first act was to pick the ball out of the back of the net as Lujic blasted the ball straight down the middle of the goal from the resultant spot kick.
The three points were wrapped up just after the hour mark when Lujic got on the end of Mala’s ball down the right before providing a low cross for Minopoulos to score at the near post for his second goal and South’s third for the evening. The only negative of the night for the away side was the dismissal of Jawadi after 68 minutes, when the midfielder picked up his second yellow card of the night and was sent off by the referee for an early shower. Chris Taylor’s South side saw out the remaining time in the game as Jason Saldaris notched up his 11th clean sheet from 20 League matches this season, with the South custodian having also notched up 13 clean sheets from his 23 matches across all competitions this season.
Taylor admitted post-match about being nervous ahead of the trip to Hosken Reserve (as Pascoe Vale defeated Oakleigh there 2-0 earlier this season) and as a result he was very satisfied with winning the three points on Friday night. He played down suggestions that the League Championship could be won over the coming fortnight (with a few more wins and Oakleigh dropping points), adding that “Oakleigh has been very strong all season and will push us right to the end. We can only do what’s in our control and that is to take it one match at a time and try to keep the (winning) momentum going.”
South Melbourne FC has two extremely important matches coming up this week, with the first being against the Bentleigh Greens at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex on Wednesday night (6 August, kick-off at 8:30PM) before a home match against Werribee City at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday evening (10 August, kick-off at 5PM). Four more wins from its remaining six matches will mathematically secure the League Championship (assuming Oakleigh continues to win) so the upcoming week presents the opportunity to secure half of the wins required.
FINAL SCORE: PASCOE VALE 0-3 SOUTH MELBOURNE (HT: 0-1)
0-1: Leigh Minopoulos (33′)
0-2: Milos Lujic (59’p)
0-3: Leigh Minopoulos (64′)
1. Stefaan SARDELIC (GK) (sent off 56′), 2. Adrian TALARICO, 3. Nathen MEGIC (27. Yaren SOZER (GK) (58’), 5. James STEFANOU (17. Evan KARAVITIS 88’), 8. Joseph YOUSSEF, 9. Jake NAKIC, 11. Jonathan VOULGARIS, 14. Alvaro CARRILO, 16. Marco SANTILLI (13. Mathew LAZARIDES 82’), 21. Michael FERRANTE, 22 Carl RECCHIA.
South Melbourne FC:
1. Jason SALDARIS (GK), 2. Tim MALA, 4. Michael EAGAR (C), 8. Mathew THEODORE (18. Dion KIRK 75′), 9. Milos LUJIC, 10. Tyson HOLMES, 11. Brad NORTON, 12. Iqi JAWADI (sent off 68′), 14. James MUSA, 27. Leigh MINOPOULOS, 77. Stephen HATZIKOSTAS.
SMFC Man of the Match: Leigh Minopoulos
Venue: Hosken Reserve
Date: Friday 1 August 2014