NPL South Australia champion MetroStars SC has progressed to the final of the PlayStation 4 NPL 2014 Finals Series after defeating Victorian champion South Melbourne 2-1 at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday.
A second-half goal from former South Melbourne forward Scott Tunbridge was enough to condemn the home side to a rare defeat at home and set up a date with Bonnyrigg White Eagles.
Tunbridge’s perfectly timed run allowed him to get on the end of a pinpoint ball before he slammed the ball home with aplomb.
South Melbourne went behind early courtesy of a misplaced James Musa header. The New Zealand international was toiling in an attempt to clear the ball, but could only direct it beyond a hapless Chris Maynard.
All was not lost for South Melbourne and it was right back in the match when Jamie Reed’s well weighted cross picked out the towering Milos Lujic, who nodded the ball home at the back post in the 36th minutes.
South Melbourne was unable to find the elusive equaliser though, bringing an end to its elongated season.
MetroStars began the brightest and looked dangerous thanks largely to Perry Mitris’ ominous runs and attempts. The NPL SA leading goalscorer struck the cross bar with a thunderbolt of a shot, while Tunbridge had a chance of his own to double the visitors’ lead.
South Melbourne was granted a golden break following the equaliser when Lujic won a spot kick.
Jamie Reed could only manage to blast his effort over the bar from 12 yards, which ultimately proved to be costly as the MetroStars held on to progress.
South Melbourne coach Chris Taylor attributed the loss to complacency from his players.
“I thought it was a topsy-turvy game,” Taylor said.
“To me we were very, very complacent. We went into the game probably expecting a result today. We could have been three down within 20 minutes.
“We came back into it, missed a penalty and had it better in the second half. But it shows at this level that you have to be switched on for the whole 90 minutes. And credit to them (MetroStars), they were organised, worked hard and deserved to win it in the end.”
Metrostars coach Ivan Karlovic paid tribute to his players, who have now won two games on the road in as many weeks after defeating Bayswater City on penalties the week prior.
“We’ve had our backs against the wall,” Karlovic said.
“We’ve had two away trips which are never easy. The boys have been immense and backed it up this week after a tough trip to Perth.
“I thought we let ourselves down in the first half, but all in all I’m very happy.”
South Melbourne 1 (Lujic 36’) defeated by MetroStars SC 2 (OG Musa 11’, Tunbridge 56’) at Lakeside Stadium
South Melbourne: 21. Chris MAYNARD (GK), 2. Tim MALA, 4. Michael EAGAR, 7. Nick EPIFANO (27. Leigh MINOPOULOS 61’), 8. Mathew THEODORE, 9. Milos LUJIC, 10. Tyson HOLMES (25. Shaun TIMMINS 61’), 11. Brad NORTON, 12. Iqi JAWADI, 14. James MUSA, 17. Jamie REED.
Unused subs: 1. Jason SALDARIS, 6. Dimi TSIARIS, 18. Dion KIRK.
Yellow cards: Mala (43’), Timmins (65’), Lujic (79’)
MetroStars SC: 20. Daniel GODLEY (GK), 2. David MENECHELLA, 5. Lee ROBERTSON, 6. Anthony SOLAGNA, 7. Michael D’ALOISIO (15. Lawrence D’ARRIGO 75’), 9. Steven GELLI, 11. Scott TUNBRIDGE (10. Andrew CIARLA 89’), 18. Fabian BARBIERO, 19. Joseph POLISENA, 21. Adam VAN DOMMELE, 23. Perry MITRIS.
Unused subs: 1. Julian KALI, 3. Stefan CALI, 16. Andrew ORPHANOU.
Yellow cards: Nil
Image credit: Cindy Nitsos