By John Kyrou
South Melbourne FC was defeated for only the second time in the 2014 National Premier League Victoria season after suffering a 2-1 loss against the Bentleigh Greens at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex last night. Goals in each half from David Stirton and James Cumming were enough for the Greens to defeat South, who pulled a consolation goal back deep in second half injury time thanks to Tyson Holmes.
Chris Taylor made only one change from the starting eleven that defeated Pascoe Vale 0-3 last Friday as Nick Epifano replaced the suspended Iqi Jawadi in the line-up. Jamie Reed returned to the substitutes’ bench after missing the Pascoe Vale match due to injury. South began the game very strongly and were unlucky not to take the lead in the opening fifteen minutes. Holmes headed the ball onto the post before centre-half James Musa let fly with a stunning lob from distance that just went over Alistair Gray’s crossbar and out for a goal kick, with the goalkeeper scrambling back to try and block the ball. The Greens goalkeeper made a good save to deny Leigh Minopoulos scoring from a free kick, whilst at the other end, Bentleigh almost took the lead with a free kick that hit the crossbar. South goalkeeper Jason Saldaris had been struggling to deal with some high balls coming into his area and Bentleigh took full advantage of this in the 33rd minute, when Saldaris mis-judged a cross into his area to allow an unmarked Stirton to score at the back post.
John Anastasiadis’ Bentleigh side secured the three points early in the second half with a superb team goal. Following a short corner taken, a series of passes were completed around South’s penalty area before the ball was teed up for Cumming to smash past Saldaris with a fierce low drive from the edge of the area. Taylor reacted by replacing Mathew Theodore and Minopoulos with Shaun Timmins and Reed just after the hour mark but the home side had now wrestled control of the match and looked the more likely to score on the counter-attack. Saldaris redeemed himself with a save from a Wayne Wallace header, whilst Gray also made a good save at the other end to deny Milos Lujic from heading Reed’s cross into the back of the net. Taylor rolled the dice for his last substitute, replacing Epifano with Dion Kirk and the youngster made an impact by providing the ball through for Holmes to score past Gray in the third minute of injury time. Unfortunately for South, it was too late and the full time whistle sounded moments later to confirm what was a very disappointing loss.
Post-match, Taylor mentioned how “it’s still in our hands to win the League, we need to bounce back with a win on the weekend and try and stay ahead of Oakleigh.” He added that missing the suspended Jawadi “was a massive loss for tonight’s game” due to the midfielder’s incredible work-rate, something that was clearly missing against Bentleigh. With five matches remaining, South continue to hold a seven point lead against the Oakleigh Cannons, however the Cannons have a game in hand and could potentially reduce that lead to four points. The two sides are scheduled to meet each other in the second-last round of the season at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday 7 September in what could ultimately decide the League Championship.
The news was far more positive in the NPL 20s, as South Melbourne defeated Bentleigh Greens 0-4 thanks to a double from Dion Paola and goals from Stefan Zinni and Josh Markovski.
South Melbourne FC’s next match is against Werribee City at Lakeside Stadium this Sunday 10 August, with kick-off at 5PM.
FINAL SCORE: BENTLEIGH GREENS 2-1 SOUTH MELBOURNE (HT: 1-0)
1-0: David Stirton (33′)
2-0: James Cumming (51′)
2-1: Tyson Holmes (90+3′)
21. Alistair GRAY (GK), 2. Tom MATTHEWS, 3. James CUMMING, 5. Jack WEBSTER, 8. Wayne WALLACE, 10. David STIRTON, 12. Luke GALLO (22. Lewis FOSTER 79′), 14. Ryan DE VRIES, 15. Christian CARVALLO, 16. Nicholas TEICHMAN (23. Christopher DROUTSAS 85′), 19. Liam McCORMICK (4. Patrick AVICE 67′).
South Melbourne FC:
1. Jason SALDARIS (GK), 2. Tim MALA, 4. Michael EAGAR (C), 7. Nick EPIFANO (18. Dion KIRK 76′), 8. Mathew THEODORE (25. Shaun TIMMINS 65′), 9. Milos LUJIC, 10. Tyson HOLMES, 11. Brad NORTON, 14. James MUSA, 27. Leigh MINOPOULOS (17. Jamie REED 65′), 77. Stephen HATZIKOSTAS.
SMFC Man of the Match: Tim Mala
Venue: Kingston Heath Soccer Complex
Date: Wednesday 6 August 2014