South aces double up in Port Melbourne win
By Brandon Galgano (@bgalgano94)
Image: Cindy Nitsos
South Melbourne secured a vital 4-2 win against Port Melbourne Sharks on Friday night to continue its pursuit of PS4 NPL Victoria leaders Bentleigh Greens.
Doubles for Milos Lujic and Nick Epifano saw off a spirited Port Melbourne at Lakeside Stadium.
Coming into the contest following an emphatic second half Dockerty Cup final performance against Oakleigh last weekend, South Melbourne were looking to get things going early in the contest on a slick Lakeside stadium surface against a Port side who needed a win to keep their faint finals chances alive.
The visitors were the first to go close to opening the scoring though as Adrian Zahra beat his man inside the area before unleashing a crashing left footed drive which smashed off the crossbar and away in the 13th minute.
Coming off a superb double last weekend, Milos Lujic was looking to resume normal service with an acrobatic bicycle kick in the 21st minute but despite getting a good connection on the ball it went straight into the waiting arms of Michael Stark.
South Melbourne did get their opener though in the 30th minute through who else but Lujic.
Following some great work on the left hand side, the ball was lofted in towards the back post for Lujic who despite seemingly being caught underneath the ball got enough power on his header to loop it over Stark back into the top corner of the net to make it 1-0.
Port counter attacked with a fantastic through ball finding the ever dangerous Nick Krousoratis who was played through and beat the oncoming Nikola Roganovic to level the scores 1-1 in the 43rd minute.
South hit back from the second half re-start with Leigh Minopoulos winning a penalty from Connor Redan.
Nick Epifano stepped up and coolly slotted the ball home into the bottom left corner to make it 2-1 South Melbourne in the 46th minute.
Port Melbourne weren’t done yet though and just four minutes later they were level again.
With the ball breaking out to the edge of the area Alan Mulcahy stepped up to drive a stinging shot from 25 yards to the right of Roganovic whose parry didn’t get the ball out of the danger zone but instead fell into the path of Krousoratis who, despite smashing his initial follow up straight at the South keeper, slotted home on the second attempt to make it 2-2 in the 50th minute.
With the crowd still catching its breath following the goal, South Melbourne broke forward again just two minutes later through Norton yet again whose looping cross found an unmarked Lujic at the back post who volleyed home from close range to make it 3-2 South Melbourne.
It was very nearly four in the 60th minute but for an incredible goal line clearance from former South defender Shaun Kelly who kept his side in the contest.
Any hopes of a fightback were diminished though with 20 minutes to play as Epifano grabbed his brace.
With the Port Melbourne defence pushing forward in search of an equaliser the ball broke to Epifano who found himself through on goal with just Stark to beat.
Despite being under pressure from both the goalkeeper and the backtracking Kelly, Epifano showed his class with an inch perfect side footed finish into the back of the net to make it 4-2 in the 69th minute.
Lujic's best attempt to grab his hat-trick was foiled by a close-range save from Stark. The scoring was finished with 20 minutes to go as South consolidated to secure three precious points.
South Melbourne 4 (Lujic 30’, 54’, Epifano 46’ pen., 68’) defeated Port Melbourne 2 (Krousoratis 44’, 51’) at Lakeside Stadium.
South Melbourne XI: 1 Nikola ROGANOVIC, 2 Tim MALA, 4 Michael EAGAR (c), 5 Luke ADAMS, 7 Nick EPIFANO, 8 Matthew THEODORE (16 Andy BEVIN 88’), 9 Milos LUJIC (10 David STIRTON 89’), 11 Brad NORTON, 12 Iqbal JAWADI, 27 Leigh MINOPOULOS (14 Chris IRWIN 74’), 77 Steve HATZIKOSTAS
Unused Substitutes: 22 Fraser MCLAREN, 23 Andy KECOJEVIC
Port Melbourne XI: 25 Michael STARK, 3 James RICCOBENE, 4 Alan MULCAHY (17 Erhan YALAZ 78’), 5 George KROMMIDAS (16 Alan KEARNEY 63’), 7 Adrian ZAHRA, 10 Andrew MILICEVIC, 11 Nick KROUSORATIS, 14 Kamal IBRAHIM, 19 Shaun KELLY (c), 20 Julius DAVIES (22 Ryan OPPERMAN 46’) 23 Conor REDDAN
Unused Substitutes: 1 Ben MORELLA, 6 Chris GROSSMAN