Sharks, Werribee survive in heartstopper
By Shaun Moran (@moranshaun)
A spectacular 95th-minute Connor Reddan equaliser ensured Port Melbourne avoided relegation in its 1-1 draw with Werribee City at JL Murphy Reserve on Sunday.
Oakleigh and Ballarat’s tussle which was being played concurrently had direct implications on the fate of both teams, and when Oakleigh prevailed a 2-0 winner, it looked as if all was lost for Eric Vassiliadis’ men.
Trailing by a goal with just seconds remaining, Lambros Honos embarked on a mazy run through the central corridor that had the home fans gasping for breath.
He eventually rounded Tommy Dunn in the Werribee goal and cut back a pass to Connor Reddan for the easiest of tap-ins to spark wild celebrations.
Just 20 minutes earlier, Werribee had effectively sealed its place in next season’s top flight.
Matthew Cundari struck a magnificent right-footed shot from just outside the area that slammed in off the upright, in what was a massive relief for a Werribee outfit which sat in the relegation zone before the final day of the season.
Werribee could have made the perfect start if not for a foul on Port Melbourne goalkeeper Stjepaz Gal.
Gal came out and looked to have completely misjudged a lopping ball before it glided into the back of the net.
Referee George Lakrinidis came to save Gal’s blushes in what was the first in a series of interventions that the Port shot-stopper had to make in a number of minutes.
He needed to get down low to thwart Simon Zappia’s valiant attempt, before Ersin Kaya had Gal glued to the spot after his free kick cannoned off the post.
It was much of the same from Werribee in the second period as it continued to look the more threatening going forward.
Port Melbourne threw everything at Werribee in the dying minutes and although it appeared its efforts were going to be in vain, a draw proved enough for both sets of sides to round off the season satisfied.
Port Melbourne coach Eric Vassiliadis lauded his team’s spirit and effort, which he attributed to their survival.
“I’m proud in so many fronts,” Vassiliadis said.
“It’s huge because everybody wants to be involved at the top. In terms of recruitment and retention, it’s going to help us. But if you look at the team that was out there, what they learned is going to hold them in good stead going forward.”
Werribee boss Nino Ragusa expressed his delight at having presided over a team that avoided relegation under some trying circumstances.
“I came here three-and-a-half years ago and I’ve taken it from a club struggling to get out of the second division all the way to the premier league,” Ragusa said.
“All we wanted this year was 20 to 25 points. For Werribee, they [the board] told me if you survive, you survive, if you can’t you can’t, but near the end, they told me now that we’ve seen the premier league and what it is and that we want to stay in it...and we did.”
Port Melbourne Sharks 1 (Reddan 90’+5) drew with Werribee City 1 (Cundari 72’) at JL Murphy Reserve [HT: 0-0]
Port Melbourne Sharks: 22. Stjepaz GAL (GK), 18. Milos RIDESIC, 23. Connor REDDAN, 26. Lambros HONOS, 7. Amadu KOROMA, 8. Zois GALANOPOULOS (11. Nicholas KROUSORATIS 46’), 6. Chris GROSSMAN (0. Luka PRELEVIC 74’), 14. Kamal IBRAHIM (27. Andrew MILICEVIC 70’), 3. James RICCOBENE, 16. Stefan NIGRO, 17. Phillip RICCOBENE.
Unused subs: 1. Adam HREHORESIN (GK), 4. Timothy PATON.
Yellow cards: Nil
Werribee City: 1. Tommy DUNN (GK), 4. Ryan FILIPOVIC, 2. Ersin KAYA, 43. Steve CUDRIG, 13. Milan SAVIC, 10. Damir MARUSIC (14. Bobby VIDANOSKI 84’), 19. Robbie NAUMOSKI (11. Domenico MARAFIOTI 61’), 7. Simon ZAPPIA (5. Evan BATSIS 54’), 8. Simon TOLLI, 9. Devon BONNE, 17. Matthew CUNDARI.
Unused subs: 20. Daniel PETROV, 15. Julien CASSANO
Yellow card: Filipovic (45’)
Pictured: Stefan Nigro celebrates Port Melbourne's late goal to avoid relegation (Image credit: Graeme Furlong)