A new look South Melbourne FC kicked off 2019 with a strong performance despite ultimately falling 3-1 to Bentleigh Greens in a back and forth contest at Kingston Heath.
Perfect late Summer conditions greeted the teams for the round 1 blockbuster and after a cagey start, Bentleigh drew first blood with their opening attempt of the game. A fortunate break in the midfield saw the ball played out wide to Yuel, whose low cross found Barresi to slot home in the 9th minute.
Chances were few and far between for both sides but South rallied with debutant Gerrie Sylaidos firing narrowly wide. The 2018 NPL Rising Star continued to impress, stripping the Bentleigh midfield and releasing Nick Krousoratis on the right wing who surged forward before equalizing with a powerful low finish in the 23rd minute. South continued to look threatening on the break, particularly down the right flank through Pepe Marafioti before Kostas Stratomitros was forced from the field with injury shortly before the half time whistle.
South began the second half on the front foot with the midfield looking composed in possession and goal scorer Krousoratis terrorizing the Bentleigh defence with some explosive attacking runs. Despite the positive signs, Bentleigh once again took the lead against the run of play with Yuel tapping home from close range in the 70th minute after another low cross. The goal didn’t change the momentum of the game, South continued to press forward and came agonizingly close to finding an equalizer on several occasions, most notably with Sylaidos and substitute Marcus Schroen both being denied by acrobatic saves.
Ultimately legs began to fade and as the game stretched Bentleigh speedster Yuel doubled his tally with a smart finish on the counter-attack, sealing the game for the Greens deep in injury time.
The 3-1 scoreline flattered the home side in the end as South Melbourne left frustrated not to have picked up at least a point. The overall performance had plenty of positives though and Con Tangalakis will feel optimistic about the team’s chances for next Friday night’s game against Dandenong City.
FINAL SCORE: BENTLEIGH GREENS 3-1 SOUTH MELBOURNE (HT: 1-1)
1-0: Joshua Barresi (9′)
1-1: Nick Krousoratis (23′)
2-1: Valentino Yuel (70′)
3-1: Valentino Yuel (90+4′)
1. Ryan Scott (GK), 2. Matthew Crooks (4. Charles Fry 88′), 3. Jacob Alexander, 5. Jack Webster (c), 7. Joshua Barresi (11. James Xydias 83′), 8. George Lambadaridis, 10. Tyson Holmes, 14. Marco Jankovic, 15. Valentino Yuel, 18. Matthew Thurtell, 23. Velibor Mitrovic (17. Arnold Suew 62′).
Unused Subs: 6. Brody Taylor, 20. Nathan Coe (GK).
Yellow Cards: Holmes 57′.
Coach: John Anastasiadis.
South Melbourne FC:
1. Nikola Roganovic (GK) / 2. Perry Lambropoulos, 5. Jake Marshall, 4. Luke Adams, 11. Brad Norton (c) / 18. Kosta Stratomitros (8. Dean Bereveskos 35′), 17. Ethan Gage / 12. Nick Krousoratis, 45. Gerrie Sylaidos, 7. Pepe Marafioti (10. Marcus Schroen 72′) / 14. George Howard (13. Giordano Marafioti 62′).
Unused Subs: 3. Kristian Konstantinidis, 23. Amir Jashari (GK).
Yellow Cards: Roganovic 61′, G Marafioti 68′, Lambropoulos 80′.
Coach: Con Tangalakis