South Melbourne FC

The Blue and White Forever

Match Preview – NPL Grand Final – SMFC v Oakleigh

Match Preview – NPL Grand Final – SMFC v Oakleigh
Leigh Minopoulos, Nick Epifano celebrate going 2-1 ahead

South Melbourne FC will be aiming for a record-breaking tenth Victorian State League Championship when it hosts the Oakleigh Cannons in the 2016 NPL Victoria Grand Final at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday evening.

South and Oakleigh finished third and fourth respectively on the league table following the conclusion of the regular season but made the Grand Final by both winning home elimination finals then away semi finals. Chris Taylor’s side qualified for the Grand Final first via a comeback 1-2 win against traditional rivals Heidelberg United in an at-times fiery derby at the Olympic Village last Saturday night. Peter Tsolakis’ side then confirmed their place in the final with a huge 1-3 victory over the Premiership winners Bentleigh Greens last Sunday afternoon.

South and Oakleigh have only previously met once in a Victorian finals series, with Oakleigh prevailing 1-0 thanks to a late goal from Craig Goodwin back in August 2011. In August last year, the two sides met in the Dockerty Cup final at Lakeside Stadium, a game that South won 3-0 thanks to a second-half double from Milos Lujic and a further goal from Leigh Minopoulos. Interestingly, South’s semi final was against Heidelberg that it won 2-1 after initially being a goal down.

A win on Sunday will mean a tenth Victorian State League / NPL Victoria Championship for South, having previously won the title in 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1974, 1976, 2006 and 2014. With nine Championships, South and Green Gully are currently the two most successful football clubs in the top flight of Victorian football – winning on Sunday will make South the outright most successful Victorian top-flight club, whilst also adding to its four National League championships won in 1984, 1991, 1998 and 1999.

For Oakleigh, a win on Sunday will give them their first title in Victoria’s top flight. Oakleigh has been very close to winning the Championship several times over the past decade but has always fallen just short each time. In 2006, they won the Premiership after finishing a whopping twelve points clear of second-placed Altona Magic but crashed out of the finals series in straight sets. In 2011 and 2012, Oakleigh finished second on the ladder, qualified for the Grand Final but lost both times, 3-2 to Green Gully (2011) and 2-1 to the Dandenong Thunder (2012) respectively.

In the first season of the re-branded NPL Victoria in 2014, there was no finals series, with the championship decided via first-past-the-post. Oakleigh only lost three times that season and was undefeated in two league meetings with South  – including inflicting a 3-0 hammering at Jack Edwards Reserve – but finished seven points behind Taylor’s side in second place come season’s end.

Sunday’s game will be won and lost in defence, with the two league meetings between the teams this season producing twelve goals. South triumphed 4-1 at Lakeside back in April before Oakleigh won the return game 4-3 at Jack Edwards Reserve in July. Both sides have an abundance of attacking options – South with Lujic, Minopoulos, Marcus Schroen and Nick Epifano to name a few, whilst Oakleigh has Dimitri Hatzimouratis, Goran Zoric, Dean Piemonte and Dusan Bosnjak. Whichever team’s defence tames the opposition attack the best will decide the destination of the 2016 title.

Will South win a record-breaking tenth Victorian Championship on Sunday or will Oakleigh finally win the title it has been chasing for over a decade? Sunday’s Grand Final kicks off at 5:30pm at Lakeside Stadium.

SMFC v Oakleigh Cannons – Head to Head (League & Finals)

Matches Played: 25
Wins (SMFC): 12
Wins (OCFC): 9
Draws: 4

First match: Oakleigh Cannons 0-1 SMFC (4 March 2005, Jack Edwards Reserve)
Last match: Oakleigh Cannons 4-3 SMFC (17 July 2016, Jack Edwards Reserve)

Biggest Winning Margin (SMFC): 3 goals (5-2 / 4-1 wins, 27 Jul 2007 / 17 Apr 2016, Lakeside Stadium)
Biggest Winning Margin (OCFC): 3 goals (3-0 win, 6 June 2014, Jack Edwards Reserve)

Most Goals in a Match (SMFC): (5-2 win, 27 July 2007, Lakeside Stadium)
Most Goals in a Match (OCFC): (4-3 win, 17 July 2016, Jack Edwards Reserve)

Biggest Finals Win (SMFC): None
Biggest Finals Win (OCFC): 1-0 (21 August 2011, Jack Edwards Reserve)


NPL Home Away Finals


0-1 1-0


0-1 1-2


5-2 1-1


3-1 0-1


0-0 1-1


1-2 1-0


1-0 2-1 0-1


2-1 3-1


2-1 2-1


2-2 0-3


1-0 0-2


4-1 3-4 ?

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