South comes back from two-down against Bentleigh
By Damir Kulas (@DamirKulas)
A second half fightback from South Melbourne saw it come back from two goals down at the break to draw 2-2 against Bentleigh Greens at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex on Friday night.
First half strikes to Matt Thurtell and Chris Lucas had the Greens 2-0 up at halftime, only for a Milos Lujic penalty early in the second half, and a late Nick Epifano strike to salvage a point for the defending champions.
Coming into the contest, both sides occupied the top two spots on the ladder and were looking to continue their undefeated starts to the campaign.
A cagey opening saw chances limited to the odd audacious attempt, first from Daniel Visevic, and then Matt Thurtell, as the home side had the better of the opening chances.
On the half hour mark, Troy Ruthven won the ball back in midfield for the Greens before an a wonderful team move found the feet of Thurtell, who expertly slotted the ball past South goalkeeper Nikola Roganovic.
The build-up play from Bentleigh was straight out of the dream factory and would have made Pep Guardiola proud.
Five minutes later, a superb Tyson Holmes through ball was met by the speedy Lucas who tucked the ball through the legs of Roganovic and into the net to send the home side into dreamland.
South’s first decent effort on goal came right before half-time, when Mathew Theodore’s strike was deflected into the path of Alistair Bray by the onrushing Milos Lujic in what was a half to forget for Chris Taylor’s men.
The Englishman would then switch things around in the second half, as Bonel Obradovic and David Stirton made way for Cody Martindale and Andy Brennan.
The changes seemed to do the trick, with South dominating much of the half and reducing the deficit through Lujic’s 53rd minute penalty.
The reigning Golden Boot winner was clumsily fouled by Luke Pilkington in the box, before converting the resulting spot-kick.
However against the run of play, the hosts nearly got a third when Steven Topalovic’s effort from a goal mouth scramble was cleared to safety by a revealed visitors defence.
Despite this near-scare, South managed to tie it up through Nick Epifano, pouncing on a flick-on and flicking the ball past the approaching Bray to set up a standing finale.
Bentleigh recovered from this setback and could have almost regained the lead, but Holmes fired his header straight into Roganovic, before Thurtell blazed over in opportunities where both should have done better.
Controversy reigned minutes from the 90 when Greens players claimed an effort on goal had crossed the line only to be denied.
The drama did not stop there as with virtually the last kick off the game, Lujic found himself one-on-one against Bray but horribly mishit his half-volley without troubling the shot stopper as both sides retained their unbeaten starts to the season.
Bentleigh Greens 2 (Thurtell 30, Lucas 35) drew with South Melbourne 2 (Lujic 53p, Epifano 79)
BG: 21. Alistair Bray (GK), 2. Tom Matthews, 4. Troy Ruthven (6. McCormick 81’), 5. Jack Webster, 8. Wayne Wallace, 9. Chris Lucas, 10. Tyson Holmes, 18. Matt Thurtell, 19. Daniel Visevic (7. Jamie de Abreu 71’), 24, Luke Pilkington, 36. Steven Topalovic
Unused Subs: 1. Ryan Scott (GK), 11. Dion Kirk, 15. Kobbie Boahene
Yellow Card(s): Wallace 49
Red Card(s): None
SM: 1. Nikola Roganovic (GK), 2. Tim Mala, 4. Michael Eager, 5. Luke Adams, 6. Bonel Obradovic (15. Cody Martindale 46’), 7. Nick Epifano (27. Leigh Minopoulos 89’), 8. Matthew Theodore, 9. Milos Lujic, 10. David Stirton (17. Andy Brennan 46’), 11. Brad Norton, 12. Iqbal Jawadi
Unused Subs: 13. Dane Milovanovic, 23. Andy Kecojevic
Yellow Card(s): Mala 24, Jawadi 76, Eager 85
Red Card(s): None
PHOTO: Anita Milas