South Melbourne FC continued its perfect start to the 2015 PlayStation 4 NPL Victoria season, surviving a late onslaught to defeat Werribee City 2-1 at Galvin Park on Sunday afternoon.
Chris Taylor was forced into an early change when Tim Mala was substituted just four minutes into the match, having rolled his ankle in a contest. Mala was replaced by 16 year old Andy Kecojevic, who made his first appearance for South Melbourne in 2015.
Despite the change, South looked in control for most of the first half and took the lead after 14 minutes. David Stirton quickly played a short corner to Iqi Jawadi, who curled a shot into the back of the net for his first League goal for South Melbourne in a competitive match.
Kecojevic then set up South’s second goal of the afternoon with a superb through-ball that was finished perfectly by Epifano. Kecojevic showed several brilliant touches in a superb first half performance, delighting the large contingent of away fans that had travelled to Galvin Park for the match.
At half-time, South held a resounding two goal lead and most at the ground were predicting a runaway victory for the reigning NPL Victoria Champions. However, a first half knock meant that Kristian Konstantinidis did not return after the break, leaving Chris Taylor down two key defenders for the second half due to injury.
Epifano also limped off early in the second half and Werribee City pulled a goal back when Julian Cassano tapped into an open net with 25 minutes to go. South was forced to endure wave after wave of attack from Werribee, who looked a different side after the break and after their goal. Kecojevic became the fourth South player to injure himself, however he was forced to continue playing in the dying stages as South had used up all its substitutions earlier in the match due to other injuries.
With the second half into the fourth minute of injury time, Steven Cudrig’s flying header beat Nikola Roganovic but not the crossbar, with the ball bouncing off the bar before being cleared by the South defence. The final whistle sounded moments later, much to the relief of a South side that had been forced to re-organise itself following injuries to several key players.
Captain Michael Eagar, filling in at the centre of defence in Konstantinidis’ second half absence, made several crucial interceptions and clearances to ensure victory. The skipper said that his side was keen to move on to next week. “We made it a lot more difficult for ourselves than we should have in the second half. We were unlucky with injuries but then maybe we got a bit of luck also go our way at the end with the header hitting the crossbar, so at the end of the day we’ll take the three points and move on.”
Coach Chris Taylor highlighted the importance of squad depth in the victory, singling out Kecojevic’s performance in particular. “We were forced into three changes which happens once in a blue moon but all the guys who came on did a good job. Andy Kecojevic came on and gave us a new dimension and created things, he was great. It shows that we’ve got good depth in the squad.”
Next Saturday afternoon, South Melbourne face Whittlesea United in the Fourth Round of the Dockerty Cup / Westfield FFA Cup qualifying. The match kicks off at 3pm at Thomas Street Reserve in Thomastown.
Final Score: Werribee City 1-2 South Melbourne (HT: 0-2)
0-1: Iqi Jawadi (14′)
0-2: Nick Epifano (34′)
1-2: Julian Cassano (65′)
1. Frano SARIC (GK), 3. Ryan FILIPOVIC, 4. Simon COLOSIMO, 6. Anthony RAGUSA, 7. Simon ZAPPIA, 10. Chris CRISTALDO, 11. Bobby VIDANOVSKI (8. Daniel CHAABANI 46’), 13. Milan SAVIC (C) (5. Aturo YMERI 83’), 15. Nicola CAROFIGLIO (14. Julian CASSANO 60’), 19. Rob NAUMOVSKI, 23. Steven CUDRIG.
South Melbourne FC:
1. Nikola ROGANOVIC (GK), 2. Tim MALA (23. Andy KECOJEVIC 4’), 3. Kristian KONSTANTINIDIS (13. Dane MILOVANOVIC 46’), 4. Michael EAGAR (C), 5. Luke ADAMS, 6. Bonel OBRADOVIC, 7. Nick EPIFANO, (17. Leigh MINOPOULOS 68’) 9. Milos LUJIC, 10. David STIRTON, 11. Brad NORTON, 12. Iqi JAWADI.
Fix Hellas Man of the Match: Michael Eagar
Venue: Galvin Park
Date: Sunday 8 March 2015