Goalkeeper Nikola Roganovic made two late penalty saves as his South Melbourne side triumphed 2-1 against the Bentleigh Greens in what was a replay of the 2015 NPL Victoria Grand Final at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday night.
Chris Taylor’s team came into the match having not recorded a win against John Anastasiadis’ Bentleigh in five attempts – including in this season’s FFV Community Shield – and not having won against them since 2014. The opportunity for one of the teams to open up a three-point lead at the top of the 2016 NPL Victoria ladder was on offer at Sunday’s game.
The Greens looked the better side in what was a mainly scrappy first half of play. Chris Lucas sprung the offside trap to go one-on-one with Roganovic but his shot hit the near post and stayed out. His side did take the lead a short time later when Matthew Thurtell’s header to the back post was smashed home by captain Wayne Wallace.
The home side had been quite poor to that point but lifted after going a goal behind. Marcus Schroen missed a great opportunity to level the score with a free header at the back post but he put the ball wide of Ryan Scott’s goal. South did manage to level things up before the interval, when centre-back Kristian Konstantinidis met Brad Norton’s free kick with a lovely glancing header for his first goal in a South Melbourne shirt.
Former South man and Bentleigh right-back Dion Kirk gave his former side a huge advantage when he received his marching orders from referee Bruno Dianiello after picking up a second yellow card early in the second half. The home side took full advantage when Mathew Theodore met Lujic’s knock-down to score his third league goal of the season and give his team a 2-1 lead.
This match will always be remembered for the chaos of the final ten minutes. Substitute and former South player Kamal Ibrahim tumbled in the area for the first penalty but Roganovic correctly guessed by diving to his left and saving Lucas’ spot kick. Lucas himself was then fouled in the box for the second penalty but again Roganovic denied Bentleigh by diving to his right to save Troy Ruthven’s spot kick.
It was further good news in the Under 20s, with captain Milan Jovanovic’s late penalty giving South Melbourne a 1-0 victory over the Bentleigh Greens. Brian MacNicol’s side remain undefeated in 2016 with five wins and two draws from their opening seven games.
In the opening round of the 2016 Women’s State League season, South’s reserve and senior female teams played away against the Melbourne Knights. Cleo Taliadoros’ goal on 50 minutes secured a 1-1 draw for the reserves, whilst goals from Rachel Jarvis (4′) and vice captain Natalie Martineau (33′) secured a 2-0 win for the seniors.
South’s senior men’s side will be looking to continue the winning form next Sunday when they host the Oakleigh Cannons at Lakeside Stadium. Kick-off is at 4pm.
FINAL SCORE: SOUTH MELBOURNE 2-1 BENTLEIGH GREENS (HT: 1-1)
0-1: Wayne Wallace (21′)
1-1: Kristian Konstantinidis (45+2′)
2-1: Mathew Theodore (60′)
South Melbourne FC:
1. Nikola ROGANOVIC (GK) / 2. Tim MALA, 3. Kristian KONSTANTINIDIS, 5. Luke ADAMS, 11. Brad NORTON (C) / 23. Matthew FOSCHINI, 8. Mathew THEODORE (4. Michael EAGAR 81′) / 18. Matthew MILLAR, 17. Marcus SCHROEN (27. Leigh MINOPOULOS 76′), 7. Nick EPIFANO / 9. Milos LUJIC.
Unused Substitutes: 21. Zaim ZENELI (GK), 22. Andy KECOJEVIC, 77. Stephen HATZIKOSTAS.
Bentleigh Greens FC:
1. Ryan SCOTT (GK), 5. Jack WEBSTER, 8. Wayne WALLACE (C), 9. Chris LUCAS, 10. Tyson HOLMES, 11. Dion KIRK (sent off 53′), 15. Ross ARCHIBALD, 16. Troy RUTHVEN, 17. Danny DIXON (6. Liam McCORMICK 55′), 18. Matthew THURTELL (7. Kamal IBRAHIM 70′), 24. Luke PILKINGTON (12. Joshua BRINDELL SOUTH 37′).
Unused Substitutes: 21. Kane PIERCE (GK), 22. Ryan PACZKOWSKI.
SMFC Melbourne City Toyota Man of the Match: Nikola Roganovic
Venue: Lakeside Stadium
Date: Sunday 10 April 2016