Image: Con Deves
The makeup of the NPL ladder is one that not many would have expected after six rounds of the league but South Melbourne are now top following a 12-game league unbeaten run (15 in all competitions, a best for Chris Taylor at South), the most recent being an 8-1 demolition of St Albans, courtesy of four goals in each half.
They were helped to the top by Oakleigh Cannons, who inflicted previous leader Heidelberg United’s second consecutive defeat, having also succumbed to South last week.
The Lakeside battle between the hosts and St Albans was a mismatch from the outset as Matt Millar opened the scoring in the 18th minute.
There was no Milos Lujic in the line-up but that wasn’t a concern to South as Leigh Minopoulos took over the goalscoring reins, netting his first soon after Millar’s opener.
Captain Brad Norton had South three goals to the good by the half-hour mark, with the scoreline an incredible 4-1 by the break as Nick Epifano made it 4-0 before Calvin Mbarga scored his first for Dinamo to peg one back.
But the onslaught continued and both Minopoulos and Millar had their braces by the hour mark, with Spanish import David Barca coming on off the bench and adding to the rout.
There was a Dinamo debut for former Brisbane Roar youth and Avondale forward Abraham Yango but that made no difference as Minopoulos polished off the 8-1 result, and his hat-trick, from the spot, capping a near flawless and completely dominant day for the hosts as St Alban’s season continues to hit new lows.
It’s an ideal hitout for Taylor’s side who now prepare to face off against Bentleigh in the Dockerty Cup semi-final on Thursday at Jack Edwards Reserve.
Oakleigh have been a Jekyll and Hyde team this season, defeating the likes of South and Heidelberg yet then failing to make impressions against the likes of St Albans and North Geelong, but they were at their best to see off Heidelberg 2-0.
It were actually the Warriors who had the opening opportunities as Kenny Athiu found space to shoot, which was saved by John Honos, before Sean Ellis’ follow up was blocked on target, and Michael Trigger’s follow up to that skied over the bar.
From then it was Oakleigh who jolted into action, making it difficult for the hosts to impose themselves.
Janiel Silva has been a key defensive acquisition for Oakleigh and he was involved in a controversial moment of the game before the break, heading the ball towards goal.
It clearly seemed as though a handball occurred on the line from Jack Petrie, but the referee had no interest in what transpired and play continued.
Heidelberg may have been relieved, and the visitors outraged, but they would have been feeling vindicated when after the hour mark the deadlock was finally broken as Goran Zoric found space on the right wing to deliver a cross, which Giuseppe Marafioti nodded in.
The sealer came some 10 minutes before time as Wayne Wallace stripped Reuben Way of possession with the ball bobbling to Dusan Bosnjak, who drove into the box and placed a low shot past Chris Theodoridis.
Harry Noon made a return from injury as a late substitute and almost pulled one back for the hosts but was unable to, with the Bergers slumping to a second loss in a row and surrendering the league lead on goal difference to South.
Defensively the Bergers have struggled without the likes of Steven Pace and Josh Wilkins in recent weeks, losing 3-0 and 2-0 in consecutive weeks, with the attack also stifled consequently.
There’s not much time to turn it around as they face Hume City on Wednesday in the other Dockerty Cup semi on Wednesday at JL Murphy Reserve, with the latter enjoying a confidence-boosting 3-0 win over Kingston on Saturday.