(Photo by Cindy Nitsos)
South Melbourne FC maintained its three-point lead at the top of the PS4 NPL Victoria ladder thanks to a 3-2 home victory against Richmond at Lakeside Stadium on Friday night. Following a scoreless first half, five goals in an open second half saw Chris Taylor’s side win by the odd goal.
Matthew Foschini replaced Amadu Koroma in the starting XI after serving a mandatory one-match suspension last weekend (after accruing five yellow cards in the league) but was shifted from his usual defensive midfield position to right-back. Tim Mala had done an excellent job being a centre-half pairing with Luke Adams against Bulleen Lions last Sunday and remained there for the Richmond match. The starting XI otherwise remained unchanged from the Bulleen game.
2015 South player Jake Barker-Daish skied an opportunity for Richmond early in the game following a nice cross from another former South player in Hamlet Armenian. On the half hour mark, Milos Lujic was put through one-on-one with Richmond goalkeeper Gian Tapia but the custodian made an excellent block to deny South’s centre-forward. Tapia was on hand to parry an Andy Kecojevic shot away from danger shortly before the halftime break.
Nine minutes into the second half and following the ball scrambling around in the six-yard box, Lujic prodded the ball past Tapia and into the back of the net for his 60th league goal in South Melbourne colours. Lujic is now level with Michael Curcija in equal seventh spot in South’s all-time leading league goal scorers, an incredible achievement for a player that is only 26 years of age and that has recently signed a contract extension to remain with the club.
2011 South U21s Championship player Nick Niagoran – who scored against South back in March – was at it again on Friday night as he scored the equalising goal just a few minutes after coming on as a substitute. Andy Kecojevic restored South’s lead shortly after with a nice chip over the advancing Tapia as Marcus Schroen made sure that the ball went over the goal line before the scrambling Richmond defence could clear it.
Spanish signing Manuel ‘Manolo’ Herrero was brought on by Taylor in the 69th minute to replace Kecojevic and he only needed eight minutes on the field before scoring his first goal in South colours. He was put through and cooly finished past Tapia to give the home side what looked like a comfortable 3-1 lead with only 13 minutes of normal time remaining. Nick Epifano should have sealed the result straight after the restart but Tapia made another block to prevent his side from going 4-1 down.
Back in March at Kevin Bartlett Reserve, South had opened the scoring before Richmond equalised. South had then stormed to a 3-1 lead and missed a great chance to go 4-1 up. Richmond pressure and a complete South defensive collapse then saw Richmond sensationally win 6-3. As the rain began pouring down on Friday night at Lakeside Stadium, it was another Richmond substitute in Ratip Cileli – only on the field for eight minutes – that scored to bring his side within one goal of South. Surely history wasn’t going to repeat itself again three months down the track?
Luckily for South, the scoring had ended, though there were a few nerves as Richmond pressed for another goal. Following four minutes of injury time, the referee’s final whistle signalled a solid 3-2 win for South in tough conditions and an eighth home win in nine matches in 2016. Bentleigh defeated Oakleigh by the same score at Jack Edwards Reserve, meaning that the situation has not changed at the top of the NPL Victoria standings – South still lead by three points.
There was further good news in the Under 20s, with Brian MacNicol’s South Melbourne side recording an impressive 2-1 victory over top-of-the-table Richmond thanks to goals from Giordani Marafioti (20′) and Nashir Hussainy (62′).
South has one more home game left before a sequence of away matches and that is against Hume City at Lakeside Stadium next Friday night. Kick-off is at 8:30pm.
FINAL SCORE: SOUTH MELBOURNE 3-2 RICHMOND EAGLES (HT: 0-0)
1-0: Milos Lujic (54′)
1-1: Nick Niagoran (62′)
2-1: Andy Kecojevic (66′)
3-1: Manuel Herrero (77′)
3-2: Ratip Cileli (81′)
South Melbourne FC:
1. Nikola ROGANOVIC (GK) / 23. Matthew FOSCHINI, 2. Tim MALA, 5. Luke ADAMS, 11. Brad NORTON (C) / 77. Stephen HATZIKOSTAS (12. Amadu KOROMA 88′), 18. Matthew MILLAR / 17. Marcus SCHROEN (14. Chris IRWIN 90+1′), 22. Andy KECOJEVIC (15. Manuel HERRERO 69′), 7. Nick EPIFANO / 9. Milos LUJIC.
Unused Subs: 21. Zaim ZENELI (GK), 99. Iqi JAWADI.
Richmond Eagles FC:
1. Gian TAPIA (GK), 2. Javier MARANGOS, 3. Berkan YURDAKUL, 5. Geert-Arend ROORDA, 7. Hamlet ARMENIAN (18. Ratip CILELI 73′), 8. Jake BARKER-DAISH (22. Nick KOKOLAKIS 82′), 11. Liam FLYNN, 13. Bryan BRAN, 16. Alan MULCAHY, 17. Jakob WILLIAMS, 19. Souheil AZAGANE (9. Nick NIAGORAN 58′).
Unused Subs: 6. Peter SAWAN (C), 20. Tony FOGLIA (GK).
SMFC Melbourne City Toyota Man of the Match: Matthew Foschini
Venue: Lakeside Stadium
Date: Friday 24 June 2016