By John Kyrou
2014 National Premier League Victoria Champions South Melbourne FC drew 2-2 against the Oakleigh Cannons at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday evening in a match played in the presence of South Melbourne’s 1964 and 1974 Victorian State League and its 1984 National League Championship sides. Jamie Reed opened the scoring and Milos Lujic concluded the scoring as goals from Oakleigh’s Nate Foster and Dusan Bosnjak were sandwiched in between.
South were declared NPL Victoria Champions last Wednesday night after the Melbourne Knights defeated Oakleigh 1-0 to give South an uncatchable seven point lead with two matches remaining. Even though the result against Oakleigh now meant nothing in terms of ladder standings, Chris Taylor’s team were still keen on getting a positive result against the side that defeated them 3-0 at Jack Edwards Reserve back on Friday 6 June. South had also enjoyed an unbeaten home record at Lakeside Stadium in the League this season and wanted to continue that against the Cannons.
The home side began the match stronger than their opponents and should have taken an early lead after Tyson Holmes – who was playing his 50th League match for South – found himself with space in the six yard box but his shot on his non-preferred left foot went wide of John Honos’ far post. On twenty minutes, Reed outmuscled and outpaced the Oakleigh defence to control Chris Maynard’s long goal kick before slipping the ball past Honos to make the score 1-0 to the home side. Straight after the re-start, South fell asleep and Foster latched onto a ball played over the top of the South defence, rounded Maynard and scored to make it 1-1 and the score stayed that way until halftime.
Nine minutes into the second half, Bosnjak slipped his marker Shaun Timmins and calmly dispatched the ball into the top corner of Maynard’s goal to give the Cannons a surprise 1-2 lead. With the introduction of Brad Norton, Leigh Minopoulos and Nick Epifano in the final 25 minutes, South lifted a gear as they chased an equalising goal. Minopoulos was denied by a brilliant Honos save at the near post with around six minutes of normal time remaining and then the Cannons had a chance to seal the game through a Dean Piemonte shot but Maynard made a vital save to keep South alive in the contest.
With the match into the first minute of injury time, Honos made another great save at his near post to deny Reed but unfortunately for the goalkeeper, the ball spun in the air and fell perfectly for Lujic to head into the unguarded top corner and send the grandstand into a state of delirium as South denied Oakleigh the three points. It was Lujic’s 21st League goal for South this season, putting him level with Con Nestorides (1966) and Charlie Egan (1985) for the most individual goals scored by a South player in a League season. Lujic is now just one goal behind Jimmy Armstrong (1974) and Doug Brown (1984) for the Club record of 22 goals in a League season, an outstanding achievement for an individual player. He could have levelled that record and given South a dramatic 3-2 win in the fourth minute of injury time but again Honos made another save as the match finished 2-2.
Post-match, the entire playing squad, coaching staff and Team Manager Frank Piccione were presented with their Championship medals by the Minister for Environment and Climate Change and Youth Affairs, the Honourable Ryan Smith. Following this, the NPL Victoria Championship trophy was co-presented by Football Federation Victoria President Nick Monteleone and South Melbourne Hellas legend Jimmy Armstrong to Captain Michael Eagar and Coach Chris Taylor, who hoisted the inaugural NPL Victoria trophy to the applause and cheers of the 2,500 strong South Melbourne crowd in attendance. In his speech, Taylor thanked all of the players, coaches, medical staff, football staff, directors, sponsors and media before adding that “I have to especially thank the fans, you have been outstanding this season in supporting the side and we are so glad we have won the Championship for you. We want to build on this and continue to bring more success to the Club…to South Melbourne Hellas.”
The only sour note of the day was a ten-man South Melbourne NPL 20s side losing 2-5 to the Oakleigh Cannons. Dion Paola and Josh Markovski scored South’s goals.
South concludes its 2014 NPL Victoria season with a dead-rubber match away against the relegated Goulburn Valley Suns at McEwan Reserve next Sunday 14 September (kick-off at 3PM) before travelling to Hobart to play Tasmanian NPL Champions South Hobart the following Saturday 20 September in the NPL Australia play-offs.
FINAL SCORE: SOUTH MELBOURNE 2-2 OAKLEIGH CANNONS (HT: 1-1)
1-0: Jamie Reed (20′)
1-1: Nate Foster (21′)
1-2: Dusan Bosnjak (64′)
2-2: Milos Lujic (90+1′)
South Melbourne FC:
21. Chris MAYNARD (GK), 2. Tim MALA, 4. Michael EAGAR (C), 8. Mathew THEODORE (27. Leigh MINOPOULOS 72′), 9. Milos LUJIC, 10. Tyson HOLMES (7. Nick EPIFANO 65′), 12. Iqi JAWADI, 14. James MUSA, 17. Jamie REED, 25. Shaun TIMMINS (11. Brad NORTON 72′), 77. Stephen HATZIKOSTAS.
1. John HONOS (GK), 2. Thomas LAKIC (21. Andreas GOVAS 46’), 3. John BLACK, 7. Bonel OBRADOVIC, 8. Dusan BOSNJAK (10. Veton KORCARI 88’), 11. Evan CHRISTODOULOU, 14. Nate FOSTER (17. Dean PIEMONTE 65’), 18. Adam LE CORNU, 19. Goran ZORIC, 23. Dominic D’ANGELO.
SMFC Man of the Match: Milos Lujic for his late goal (Iqi Jawadi can miss out this week!)
Venue: Lakeside Stadium
Date: Sunday 7 September 2014