There was late drama at SS Anderson Reserve, as South Melbourne FC dug deep to claim local bragging rights by recording an inspirational 2-1 victory over Port Melbourne.
The game was full of wild momentum swings, with the players given extra drinks breaks to cope with the stifling heat, which was hovering around 35 oC at the 6PM kick-off time.
The Sharks have dominated recent fixtures between the teams by winning 3 of the last 4 encounters, but it was South who seized control early, dictating possession and probing for openings.
The breakthrough came in the 22nd minute with the first clear-cut chance of the game. South captain Brad Norton surged forward on the left, before sliding the ball into the path of the overlapping Nick Krousoratis. The dynamic number 12 rolled a cross onto the edge of the six-yard box for Giusseppe Marafioti to lash home.
The goal sparked South Melbourne into life. The advantage was almost doubled only minutes later, when George Howard headed narrowly wide from a corner kick.
The momentum shifted towards the end of the first half. Port worked into the game and forced South Melbourne to defend deeper and deeper as the half wore on.
The Sharks got their reward in the 43rd minute when after a pabuild-upild up, striker Sam Ford turned his defender before striking powerfully into the top right corner.
The momentum was well and truly with Port and this carried into the second half. Perry Lambropoulos put in a titanic shift as right back to stem the constant pressure, while keeper Nikola Roganovic stood up strong to deny Port on several occasions.
As the players edged towards the second drink break, the introduction of Marcus Schroen injected life into South Melbourne’s tiring midfield.
South almost took the lead in the 69th minute with what would have been an early contender for goal of the season. Krousoratis cut in off the left wing and unleashed a 25-yard screamer which rattled the cross-bar.
The moment of magic came in the 85th minute through unlikely hero Luke Adams. After Port failed to clear a corner, Brad Norton hung up a cross to the penalty spot for South’s centre back to chest down and half volley into the top corner.
It was a moment that any world class striker would have been proud of and was followed with wild celebrations on the South bench.
The win leaves South in seventh on the table, but only three points separate them from the league leaders.