South Melbourne FC began life under new coach Sasa Kolman with a frustrating 1-1 draw in its opening 2018 NPL Victoria match away against Bulleen on Monday night, in what was the third successive draw between the two sides in the last three seasons at the Veneto Club.
Goalkeeper Alastair Bray and centre-half Christos Intzidis both started in their debut matches for the club, whilst it was a second homecoming for Andy Brennan and Iqi Jawadi. South began brightly and took the game to the hosts by creating a series of chances but were unable to punish on the scoreboard. Bulleen had an early shout for a penalty but that was waved away by referee Lachlan Keevers. Somewhat against the run of play in the 38th minute, Austin Wong got his head on the end of a cross to brilliantly lob the ball over the scrambling Bray and into the back of the net via the post.
Kolman kept faith in his starting eleven in the second half. On 59 minutes, he was rewarded when an excellent team move down the left side culminated in Matthew Millar getting on the end of captain Brad Norton’s low cross and slotting the ball past Bulleen keeper Shane Viitakangas into the back of the net. The home side frustratingly appealed the goal, thinking that an apparent offside Milos Lujic had touched the ball on the way through, however the goal stood.
Oliver Minatel was introduced for the first time in a South shirt and there was even a debut for goalkeeper Keegan Coulter, after Bray went down in a world of pain in injury time and had to leave the field. South huffed and puffed but were unable to get past a stubborn Bulleen defence that withstood all the pressure put on them by the South attack.
Post-match, Norton couldn’t fault his teammates. “The effort was there and the way we banded together, especially after going a goal down was great.” On the defensive side of things, Norton added that “Sasa’s style is to keep the ball and try and play with it…. both Christos and KK (Kristian Konstantinidis) were brilliant [at centre-back].”
In the Under 20s match played prior to the Seniors, South Melbourne defeated Bulleen Lions 2-1 thanks to a late goal from Ardi Ahmeti. For a comprehensive round-up of all matches from women through to juniors, click here.
FINAL SCORE: BULLEEN LIONS 1-1 SOUTH MELBOURNE (HT: 1-0)
1-0: Austin Wong (38′)
1-1: Matthew Millar (59′)
1. Shane Viitakangas (GK), 2. Eli Luttmer, 3. William Abbott (18. Nicholas Voulgaris 18′), 4. Corey Sewell, 5. Bonel Obradovic, 8. Austin Wong, 9. Braedyn Crowley, 14. Leo Athanasiou, 15. Jordan Templin (10. Luke Gallo 70′), 16. Pablo Caceres (22. Paul Scopolliti 81′) , 20. Andrew Mullett (c).
Unused Substitutes: 19. Stefan Cardamone, 25. Wyatt Chant (GK).
Yellow Cards: Sewell 33′, Luttmer 36′, Voulgaris 54′, Mullett 90+5′.
21. Alastair Bray (GK) (1. Keegan Coulter 90+3′) / 23. Matthew Foschini, 3. Kristian Konstantinidis, 39. Christos Intzidis, 11. Brad Norton (c) / 12. Iqi Jawadi, 18. Matthew Millar / 17. Andy Brennan (19. Oliver Minatel 73′), 7. Nick Epifano, 27. Leigh Minopoulos (8. Luke Pavlou 84′) / 9. Milos Lujic.
Unused Substitutes: 16. Joshua Hodes, 20. Adjin Fetahagic.
Yellow Cards: Norton 90+1′, Foschini 90+3′, Lujic 90+5′.