Image: Drazen Jurina
The race in West and East tighten as leaders Northcote and Dandenong City were held to draws, allowing chasing duo Moreland Zebras and Dandenong Thunder to make up ground. Elsewhere, third-placed Moreland City and Melbourne City cemented third place, while the East’s bottom two, Eastern and Richmond, both drew as the race to avoid relegation endures.
Northcote would have been confident coming up against an out of sorts Whittlesea Ranges but they were in for a rude awakening as the Ranges held them to a 1-1 draw. Matt Whatley hit the post early while Ross Frame was denied by Phil Petrovski, who was coming up against his old club. Northcote looked good value when in the 50th minute they were awarded a penalty for a handball which Josh Knight converted. But soon after the Ranges had an equaliser when Jacob Colosimo pounced on a defensive error. Alec Goodwin was later denied by Stefan Rankovic in goal who had a good outing between the sticks.
Moreland Zebras meanwhile made it four wins on the trot, defeating Brunswick 3-0 to further reduce the gap at the top, which now sits at six with a game in hand. After surviving a Jose Portillo long effort from an angle, which Andre Jannese tipped onto bar, the Zebras took the lead when Amir Osmancevic’s shot deflected into Nic Niagioran’s path for the finish. Portillo missed a penalty in the second half which could have changed the course of the game but the Zebras went up the other end to kill off the contest with two more goals. Both had similarities to them as Josh Sabidussi and Osmancevic both netted following long kick-outs from the keeper. Omsancevic had a chance late to make it 4-0 into an open net but hit the crossbar.
Moreland City claimed a hard-fought win over the unpredictable Ballarat City to maintain their grip on third. Ben Osei-Safo had the visitors up 1-0 at the break before youngster Josh De Voogel levelled things up in the second for the hosts. But it was none other than Trent Rixon who stormed home his 18th goal of the campaign to go outright top goalscorer in the West and secure the three points.
Sunshine George Cross moved up to fourth with a comeback 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory to condemn the latter to second last. Nicholas Hatzigeorgiou Victory up in the second half, but that seemed to wake the hosts up. Goals to Souheil Azagane and Scottish import Dean Brotherston saw the Georgies run over the top of their counterparts.
Werribee City moved above Victory albeit via a result that would have disappointed them, drawing 2-2 with the relegated Bendigo City. Simon Rohan-Jones opened the scoring for Bendigo before Werribee took charge with goals to Djordje Aleksic and George Slefendorfas. Daniel Purdy equalised for Bendigo late to secure just their second point of the season.
In the East, Dandenong City drew for the second week in a row – this time 1-1 against Nunawading – to relinquish their stronghold on top of NPL2, with Thunder snapping at their heels. Mitch Cooper had the hosts up just after the break but Shaun Kelly got his side back into it not long after. James Kelly and Ljubo Milicevic had to be taken off early while Mate Dugandzic returned after an injury layoff. The league leaders had late chances to then go on and take the win but it wasn’t meant to be, with both sides having to settle for the 1-1 draw.
Dandenong Thunder now sit just a point behind City but have a better goal difference after defeating Murray United 3-1. Brandon Barnes, an own goal to Halil Gur had the hosts two to the good before Veton Korcari’s vintage season continued with the side’s third goal before the half-hour mark. Murray set about mounting a comeback after the break and Archie Thompson got one back from the penalty spot but it wasn’t enough as the Thunder emerged the victors.
— Simon Colosimo (@Shime04) July 15, 2017
Melbourne City consolidated third spot with an entertaining 5-2 victory over Springvale White Eagles, with six of the game’s seven goals coming after the break. Austin Wong set up John Roberts for his first City goal in the first half, before the latter doubled the advantage after Connor Metcalfe played him in. Matters got worse for Springvale when Jerry Karpeh was sent off, but were given a lifeline when Leo Athanasiou was also dismissed for bringing down Nate Foster. However just a minute later City had their third when Lucas Derrick sets up Zachary Bates for a tap in. The lively Foster got one back before Bates was City’s next player to secure a brace. Foster had a double of his own to reduce the deficit but City ran out 5-2 winners when Gerrie Sylaidos’ shot was saved and followed in by Josh Cavallo.
In the battle to avoid relegation, Box Hill and Richmond battled out a scoreless encounter which importantly to the latter means they stay a point above Eastern Lions, who also had a draw against Goulburn Valley Suns, 1-1. Stefan Papageorgiou ghosted in at the back post to net the opener for the Suns, while Craig Carley had an opportunity to double the advantage after rounding the keeper and getting a sight on goal only for his right-footed effort to hit the post. Lions striker Phil Ajao thumped in a header to have the scores level, and that was the way the scores were to stay. While much has been made of the bottom two, on 21 and 22 points respectively, it’s still close above them with both Nunawading and Box Hill on 25.