Image: South Melbourne
South Melbourne kept the pressure on Heidelberg with a 5-1 win over North Geelong to go equal top temporarily, driven by a Marcus Schroen hat-trick. Draws to Oakleigh against Green Gully, and Avondale against Hume City, allowed Pascoe Vale to take advantage with their 3-1 win over potential finals rivals Port Melbourne, ending the Sharks’ unbeaten run and consolidating fifth spot for Paco.
At Jack Edwards Reserve on Friday, Dusan Bosnjak waltzed past a few defenders before unleashing from the edge of the area with an unstoppable low strike to give Oakleigh the early lead. But Gully roared back to life and almost had an equaliser on numerous occasions in the first half, with Steve Hatzikostas striking the woodwork from a corner, and Pasquale Gioffre having to thwart on-target efforts from Josh Brindell-South and Nick Krousoratis. Gully’s equaliser came in the deep throes of the second half when Daniel Jones bundled home from a set piece, relieving his side’s anguish after long attempts to peg back the deficit. They could have gone on to take all three points but for the work of Gioffre between the sticks, denying Krousoratis and Dylan Smith with two wonderful late saves.
The Sharks got off to a flying start against Pascoe Vale with Francesco Stella netting a neat opener. But things started to go wrong when James Papadimitriou was sent off for two yellow cards, and Zane Sole was taken off with a potentially long-term injury. The night got worse for the Sharks when a penalty was awarded for Paco which Davey van ‘t Schip buried. The visitors dealt a dagger blow when former Shark Philippe Bernabo-Madrid cutback for Matt Lazarides to strike the go-aheal goal, before 16-year-old Jonathan Kourtroulis sealed the 3-1 win with his first senior goal.
North Geelong were dreaming of an upset against South Melbourne in the opening minutes when Luke Adams stumbled, allowing Michael Anderson to net the opener. South had the equaliser soon after however when Marcus Schroen released Nick Epifano in on goal, with the winger making no mistake. It was 1-2 after 13 minutes as Kristian Konstantinidis’ header from a corner was turned in by Schroen, who got his goalscoring boots on for the day. The score remained the same until half time, however, before Schroen had his second after the break via a Matt Millar assist. Schroen was again predatory earlier when he followed in Milos Lujic’s saved effort to secure his hat-trick. Salt was rubbed into the wound when Matt Foschini got forward to net his first goal for South Melbourne and put the cherry on top of a 5-1 win.
A scoreless draw between Avondale and Hume City helped neither side as the former couldn’t make up ground on the race to the top, while the latter remain in eighth and are battling to make the top six given the fierce competition for a finals place. Jayden Prasad and Atilla Ofli were denied by strong saves from the returning Chris Oldfield, while at the other end Nick Symeoy was also thwarted by Michael Weier before the break. Both sides’ radars were off at times in the second half and neither could break the deadlock at Somers Street.