By John Kyrou (Photo by Cindy Nitsos)
South Melbourne FC’s 2014 season came to an abrupt end when it was defeated 1-2 by North Eastern MetroStars at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The win for the South Australians sent them through to the 2014 PlayStation 4 National Premier League Grand Final against Bonnyrigg White Eagles (of Football NSW) next weekend at South’s expense.
South went into the game against MetroStars confident due to the fact that Chris Taylor’s side had only lost one of their fourteen home matches at Lakeside Stadium across all competitions in 2014. The home side were also confident having won through to the PlayStation 4 Semi Finals after defeating Tasmanian Champions South Hobart in Hobart last weekend. Standing in their way however was a MetroStars team that had won the South Australian Minor Premiership by eight points over West Adelaide Hellas and that had travelled to Western Australia to defeat Bayswater City the previous weekend.
MetroStars began the game much stronger than South Melbourne and deservedly took the lead after only eleven minutes. A cross to the back post was headed by James Musa over Chris Maynard and into the back of the net for an unfortunate but avoidable own goal. The South Australians were running amok and in truth the home side was very lucky not to have conceded more goals in an opening twenty minutes that was dominated by MetroStars. Striker Perry Mitris – who had scored 24 goals from 29 NPL South Australia matches in 2014 – was causing all sorts of problems for the South defence and nearly doubled MetroStars’ lead with a fierce shot that thundered into the crossbar.
The home side had been shell-shocked but worked their way back into the match midway through the first half. South levelled the scores on 36 minutes when Jamie Reed’s perfect cross found Milos Lujic to head home his 24th goal from 32 matches across all competitions in 2014. The home crowd suddenly roared to life and South began to look like the side that had dominated the Victorian NPL all season. Barely a couple of minutes had passed since Lujic’s header when the centre-forward went down in the area and a penalty was awarded for what in truth looked like a soft foul. Justice was perhaps served when Reed blasted his spot kick over the crossbar as the sides went into the break level at 1-1.
South began the second half well and should have taken the lead when Musa hit the crossbar with a shot from inside the six-yard box following a Brad Norton cross into the area. That miss proved to be very costly as Scott Tunbridge – a former player for South Melbourne in the 2003/04 National Soccer League season – sprung the offside trap before beating Maynard at his near post with a fierce shot for the winning goal on 56 minutes. Mathew Theodore had a chance to level again for South with around ten minutes remaining following some good build-up play from Reed but he could only blast hit shot over the bar. The full-time whistle ended South Melbourne’s season that had many positives but had unfortunately ended in disappointment.
Post-match, a reflective Taylor conceded that “we went into the game probably expecting a result today…we were very complacent. At this level you have to be switched on the whole game, otherwise you will get found out. They (MetroStars) deserved to win it in the end.” Analysing the season as a whole, Taylor added that “at the beginning of the season we set the target of winning the Victorian Championship and we achieved that which was fantastic. It was disappointing (failing to qualify for the FFA Cup and failing to win the PlayStation 4 NPL Finals Series) but I feel that we have a good squad here and with hopefully 2-3 additions in the off-season, we can be trying to improve in those competitions in 2015.”
Despite Sunday’s disappointing loss, South Melbourne FC can look back on 2014 as a record-breaking season, with the following Club records broken or equalled:
Most consecutive away wins to start a League season – 7 (13 March 2014 to 25 May 2014)
Longest winning start to a League season – 11 (13 March 2014 to 1 June 2014)
Most individual goals in a League season (minus finals) – 22 (Milos Lujic, tied with J. Armstrong and D. Brown)
Highest points tally in the VPL/NPL* – 66 points from 26 matches (2014)
* The highest ever Club tally was 69 points from 28 League matches in the 2000/01 NSL season.
South also enjoyed its best ever League season in the top flight of Victorian and Australian football, winning 22 of its 28 NPL matches for a winning percentage of 79%. South had a 94% winning rate in the 1960 season, however the Club was in Victoria’s first division back then as it won seventeen of its 18 matches to gain promotion to the Victorian State League.
Overall South Melbourne FC enjoyed a fantastic 2014 season and the Club is already looking forward to the 2015 season.
FINAL SCORE: SOUTH MELBOURNE 1-2 NORTH EASTERN METROSTARS (HT: 1-1)
0-1: James Musa OG (11′)
1-1: Milos Lujic (36′)
1-2: Scott Tunbridge (56′)
South Melbourne FC:
21. Chris MAYNARD (GK), 2. Tim MALA, 4. Michael EAGAR (C), 7. Nick EPIFANO (27. Leigh MINOPOULOS 61′), 8. Mathew THEODORE, 9. Milos LUJIC, 10. Tyson HOLMES (25. Shaun TIMMINS 61′), 11. Brad NORTON, 12. Iqi JAWADI, 14. James MUSA, 17. Jamie REED.
North Eastern MetroStars:
1. Daniel GODLEY (GK), 2. David MENECHELLA, 5. Lee ROBERTSON, 6. Anthony SOLAGNA, 7. Michael D’ALOISIO (15. Lawrence D’ARRIGO 75’), 9. Steven GELLI, 11. Scott TUNBRIDGE (10. Andrew CIARLA 89’), 18. Fabian BARBIERO, 19. Joseph POLISENA, 21. Adam VAN DOMMELE, 23. Perry MITRIS.
SMFC Man of the Match: Michael Eagar
Venue: Lakeside Stadium
Date: Sunday 28 September 2014