South Melbourne FC claimed a third piece of silverware in 2015 after defeating Northcote City 3-0 at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday to secure the PS4 NPL Victoria Premiers Plate.
Two goals from Milos Lujic and another from Brad Norton set up the win that confirmed Chris Taylor’s side would finish the home & away season on top of the League for a second successive season.
The game started with a quiet opening twenty minutes, by which time news had filtered in that the Bentleigh Greens were leading the Oakleigh Cannons 2-0 at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex. That meant that South needed to now beat Northcote to win the Minor Premiership on goal difference. The news almost got worse for the home team when James Kalifatidis was found unmarked in the six-yard box, however he directed his free header straight into South goalkeeper Nikola Roganovic’s arms.
The home fans at Lakeside Stadium breathed alot easier when their side took the lead just prior to the half hour mark via a fantastic team goal. In a move reminiscent to the opening goal in the Dockerty Cup final win over Oakleigh, Leigh Minopoulos got on the end of Mathew Theodore’s ball into the area before flicking a back-heel pass into the path of Lujic. The big striker made no mistake from point blank range and scored the all-important opening goal to a rapturous reception from the home fans.
South had one hand on the Premiers Plate a little over ten minutes later. Brad Norton’s long ball down the left flank found David Stirton, who delivered an excellent cross to the back post for Lujic to head the ball into the ground, then over Northcote goalkeeper Chris Petropoulos and into the back of the net. It was Lujic’s second goal of the day, 21st League goal in 2015 and 29th goal across all competitions in what has been another phenomenal goal scoring season for South’s centre-forward.
The Minor Premiership was secured just after the hour mark when Norton made the score 3-0. The full-back dashed down the left side of the field to receive the ball before curling a sensational chip from the edge of the area over the stranded Petropoulos, who stood rooted to the spot as the ball went over him and into the back of the net. Substitute Chris Irwin then set Lujic up for two excellent chances to secure a second hat-trick in eight days, however he blasted one effort over the crossbar then mis-kicked the other opportunity.
There were only two sour notes to the day. The first was when Lujic appeared to hyper-extend his leg under an accidental collision with Northcote’s Jordan Wilkes. The big number 9 hobbled off the ground and will undergo scans in the coming days that will determine the severity of the injury. The second disappointment was right-back Tim Mala receiving his fifth yellow card of the season, meaning that he will have to serve his mandatory one-match suspension in South’s Semi Final in a fortnight’s time.
David Stirton, starting in place of the suspended Nick Epifano, caused plenty of headaches for Northcote during the game and may feature heavily during the Finals Series should Lujic not be available. Substitute Irwin may also be in the starting eleven in place of Mala in South’s next match.
Due to finishing in first and second places, South Melbourne and Bentleigh Greens enjoy a week off before hosting their NPL Victoria Semi Finals at Lakeside Stadium and Kingston Heath. In this coming weekend’s Elimination Finals, Melbourne Knights (4th) hosts Hume City (5th) at Knights Stadium on Friday night, whilst Heidelberg United (3rd) hosts Pascoe Vale (6th) on Sunday at the Olympic Village. South Melbourne will host the lowest ranked Elimination Final winner in the Semi Finals, whilst Bentleigh will host the highest ranked winner.
As NPL Victoria Minor Premiers, South has also qualified as the Victorian representative in the National Playoffs and will host NPL Tasmania Champions Hobart Olympia in their Elimination Final. This will be played the weekend after the NPL Victoria Grand Final, which is scheduled for Sunday 13 September. With the FFV Community Shield, the Dockerty Cup and Premiers Plate already in the bag, Taylor will be hoping that his side can continue the winning form and win two more trophies in 2015.
FINAL SCORE: SOUTH MELBOURNE 3-0 NORTHCOTE CITY (HT: 2-0)
1-0: Milos Lujic (27′)
2-0: Milos Lujic (38′)
3-0: Brad Norton (62′)
SOUTH MELBOURNE FC:
1. Nikola ROGANOVIC (GK), 2. Tim MALA, 4. Michael EAGAR (C), 5. Luke ADAMS, 8. Mathew THEODORE (14. Chris IRWIN 46′), 9. Milos LUJIC, 10. David STIRTON (21. Jake BARKER-DAISH 67′), 11. Brad NORTON, 12. Iqi JAWADI (23. Andy KECOJEVIC 75′), 27. Leigh MINOPOULOS, 77. Stephen HATZIKOSTAS.
Unused Subs: 22. Fraser MacLAREN (GK), 6. Tom LAKIC.
NORTHCOTE CITY FC:
22. Chris PETROPOULOS (GK) (C), 4. Jacob ELIOPOULOS, 5. Gregory LOMBARDO, 6. Aaron WARD (17. Andrew PARASKEVAS 87′), 7. Bonel OBRADOVIC, 8. James KALIFATIDIS, 9. Calvin MBARGA, 10. Marinos GASPARIS (23. Jonathan BOUNAS 46′), 12. Jordan WILKES, 14. Anthony RAMZY (11. Evan KOUNAVELIS 46′), 19. Ryan GO.
Unused Subs: 18. Nikola MARKOVSKI, 30. Jordan GIFKINS.
SMFC Fix Hellas Beer Man of the Match: Milos Lujic
Venue: Lakeside Stadium
Date: Sunday 23 August 2015