South Melbourne FC returned to winning ways with an excellent team performance against Green Gully, triumphing 0-1 at Green Gully Reserve on Saturday afternoon. Nick Epifano’s penalty shortly before halftime was the difference between the two sides as South remained on top of the PS4 NPL Victoria ladder at the halfway mark of the season.
Changes were made to the South team that suffered a very disappointing home defeat against Pascoe Vale the previous Friday. There was a defensive re-shuffle, with Luke Adams absent due to an international call-up to the New Zealand side and Tim Mala and Kristian Konstantinidis both still recovering from injury. Matthew Foschini replaced Adams at centre-back, with his usual defensive midfield spot taken over by Stephen Hatzikostas. Iqi Jawadi also made a return to the starting eleven.
South were the better side in the first half but despite plenty of huffing and puffing, could not get past Rani Dowisha in the Gully goal. This changed three minutes before the halftime break, when right-back Amadu Koroma was fouled in the penalty area as he charged forward for his side. Epifano stepped up to take the spot kick and shot low to Dowisha’s right to open the scoring. The half ended with Mathew Theodore hitting a fierce shot that hit the crossbar, before Nick Krousouratis put an equalising chance for Gully wide of the goal at the other end.
South continued to take the game to the hosts in the second half as it chased a second goal to kill the match off as a contest. In a replica of the first half, plenty of positive play by Chris Taylor’s side ended in no additions to the scoreboard as South fans nervously awaited the typical late Green Gully onslaught that had occurred in so many previous meetings between the two clubs.
As expected, Arthur Papas’ side roared home in the final twenty minutes in what was their most dominant period of the game. Nikola Roganovic denied Liam Boland before doing the same from an Evan Christodoulou shot. Krousouratis came closest to scoring for the home side with a long-distance shot that beat Roganovic but was cleared off the line as South’s defence dug deep to preserve the clean sheet. When Roganovic made another save from George Lambadaridis, it seemed destined to be South’s day. At the other end, Gully scrambled to clear a goal-bound shot off the line, with the linesman ignoring suggestions from the away team that the ball had crossed the line.
After six tense minutes of injury time, referee Shaun Evans signalled the end of the match that confirmed South had returned to the top of the NPL Victoria table, having been temporarily overtaken by Bentleigh Greens the night before. Oddly, South have now won four straight league matches at Green Gully Reserve from 2013 onwards, having struggled to get two draws from nine matches (including a final) at the venue between 2005 and 2012.
The news was not as good in the Under 20s, with Brian MacNicol’s side suffering only their second defeat of the season as Green Gully comprehensively won 4-0.
South begin the second half of the 2016 NPL Victoria season with a trip to the Olympic Village to face old rivals Heidelberg United. The match kicks off at 6pm next Sunday.
FINAL SCORE: GREEN GULLY 0-1 SOUTH MELBOURNE (HT: 0-1)
0-1: Nick Epifano (42’p)
Green Gully FC:
23. Rani DOWISHA (GK), 2. Matthew REID (7. Tom MURPHY 74′), 3. Yohei IWASAKI, 5. Rodrigo VARGAS (C), 6. Callum RICHARDSON (4. Daniel JONES 74′), 8. George LAMBADARIDIS, 11. Evan CHRISTODOULOU, 12. Nick KROUSOURATIS, 16. Kliment TASESKI (9. Anthony RAGUSA 90′), 19. Luke WALKER, 38. Liam BOLAND.
Unused Subs: 1. Sebastian MATTEI (GK), 17. Alon BLUMGART.
South Melbourne FC:
1. Nikola ROGANOVIC (GK) / 12. Amadu KOROMA, 4. Michael EAGAR (C), 23. Matthew FOSCHINI, 11. Brad NORTON / 77. Stephen HATZIKOSTAS, 99. Iqi JAWADI (14. Chris IRWIN 77′) / 18. Matthew MILLAR, 8. Mathew THEODORE (17. Marcus SCHROEN 72′), 7. Nick EPIFANO (27. Leigh MINOPOULOS 90+1′) / 9. Milos LUJIC.
Unused Subs: 6. Filzgerald MBAKA, 21. Zaim ZENELI (GK).
SMFC Melbourne City Toyota Man of the Match: Stephen Hatzikostas
Venue: Green Gully Reserve
Date: Saturday 21 May 2016