South remain undefeated after draw in derby

South Melbourne FC remains unbeaten following a 1-1 draw with rivals Heidelberg United at Olympic Village on Sunday afternoon. South took an early lead when Milos Lujic fired a superb shot into the bottom corner in the twelfth minute, however Kaine Sheppard’s second half equaliser meant that the away side had to settle for a share of the points for a second consecutive week.

Chris Taylor’s men were keen to atone for their slow start against the Bentleigh Greens the week prior and took the lead when Lujic capitalised on some good work up the field to score with a slick finish past Griffin McMaster from the edge of the box. The lead was almost doubled a few minutes later when Lujic managed to get on the end of Andy Brennan’s stinging cross, only for his well-timed volley to be directed straight at McMaster. South’s poor run with injuries continued in this match, with Cody Martindale forced off early with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. Tim Mala also picked up a knock after landing awkwardly and was substituted in the second half. South’s passing and interplay was superb in the first half and although the score was only 0-1 at half-time, many at the ground were predicting a comfortable victory margin for the reigning PlayStation 4 NPL Victoria Champions.

As has often been the tale this season however, this was to be a game of two halves. It could have been 0-2 early in the second half when Andy Brennan, who enjoyed a good game, was unable to finish after some fantastic lead-up work by Nick Epifano down the right side. Moments later South lost the ball in midfield and the ball went down the other end of the pitch, with Sheppard firing home from distance to level the scores at 1-1. South were forced to endure wave after wave of attack from the Bergers, with the defence being put under enormous pressure from a fired up home side. A string of fine saves from Nikola Roganovic kept South in it; the goalkeeper at one stage blocking Sheppard in a one-on-one situation where a goal seemed a certainty. Four-time Championship winner Roganovic has been in tremendous form this season after two years out of the game.

Despite the pressure, Roganovic and his back four held firm to ensure a point was salvaged from a match where a point looked unlikely at times in the second half. Epifano might have won it right at the end for South, having been put through by substitute Leigh Minopoulos, however Heidelberg cleared the ball away with what proved to be the final play of a pulsating derby.

Coach Chris Taylor lamented his side’s run with injuries but said a draw was probably a fair result. “It’s been the story of our season so far and we’ve been unlucky again with injuries today. Heidelberg had some chances to win it in the second half…at the same time you have to look at the chances we had to put the result beyond doubt, so you could say that both sides could have won it.”

Sunday’s 1-1 draw leaves the reigning NPL Victoria Champions in fourth position on the table, four points behind League leaders Melbourne Knights.

The Under 20s unfortunately lost 3-2 against Heidelberg, with Nashir Hussainey and Eric Hauser scoring South’s goals.
South Melbourne FC next face Green Gully this Saturday afternoon in the last of a grueling run of tough away fixtures to start the season. Kick-off is at 3pm at Green Gully Reserve.

FINAL SCORE: HEIDELBERG UNITED 1-1 SOUTH MELBOURNE (HT: 0-1)

Goal scorers:
0-1: Milos Lujic (12’)
1-1: Kaine Sheppard (65’)

Heidelberg United:
23. Griffin MCMASTER (GK), 2. Jamie CUMMINGS, 13. Luke BYLES, 17. Steve PACE, 9. Kostas KANAKARIS (3. Les DOUMBALIS 60’), 10. Jack PETRIE, 5. Daniel VASILEVSKI (8. John VOULGARIS 60’), 7. Reuben WAY, 21. Andreas GOVAS, 22. Kaine SHEPPARD, 12. Kenny ATHIU (24. Andrew CARTANOS 75’).

Unused substitutes: 1. Christopher MAYNARD, 20. Nejc KOLMAN.

South Melbourne FC:
1. Nikola ROGANOVIC (GK), 2. Tim MALA  (6. Bonel OBRADOVIC 55’), 4. Michael EAGAR, 5. Luke ADAMS,  7. Nick EPIFANO, 8. Matthew THEODORE, 9. Milos LUJIC, 11. Brad NORTON, 12. Iqbal JAWADI, 15. Cody MARTINDALE (23. Andy KECOJEVIC 8’), 17. Andy BRENNAN (27. Leigh MINOPOULOS 72’).

Unused Subs: 13. Dane MILOVANOVIC, 10. David STIRTON.

Fix Hellas Man of the Match: Nikola Roganovic
Venue: Olympic Village
Date: Sunday 29 March 2015