On a day where three sides could get relegated from the top flight of Victorian football, we turned our attention to one of those in Richmond FC who took on an in form Avondale side at Kevin Bartlett Reserve.
Hume City 0 Bulleen Lions 2 (Nishimoto 22’, Nour 24’)
Bulleen Lions took a vital three points away at ABD Stadium defeating Hume City 2-0 to claim safety on the final day.
After a slow start Bulleen got into a groove midway through the first half scoring two goals in relatively quick succession. Takanori Nishimoto kicked off the scoring with a header to beat stand-in goalkeeper Jordan Franken. And within two minutes Sami Nour doubled the lead for the visitors.
However unlike Bulleen Hume had a raft of chances early on, two of which fell to wide-man Theo Markelis.
Markelis got his opportunity from a nicely timed Jeremy Walker ball into the area that the former Victory man volleyed on goal. But Bulleen’s shot-stopper Griffin McMaster was equal to it, saving his sides blushes early.
Moments later, Markelis would push Bulleen’s resolve further. This time a cross out wide from striker Craig Carley finds the diminutive Markelis who with his small frame finds space to header on goal. But the header is placed to central making the save simpler for McMaster.
The tide began to turn in the game. Bulleen started to put together passes and find space in behind the Hume defense. Matteo Ballan lobbed a lovely ball into Nathan Tidmarsh who beats Hume's offside trap but his effort is wide.
Bulleen challenged the Hume when they stretched the play wide. Davide Cardamone’s wayward cross finds Ersin Kaya on the opposite flank. The former Hume man finds Nishimoto with the cross who headers in the opener.
Bulleen started to play with a sort of swagger after breaking the deadlock. A neat string of passing between Josh Barresi and Nishimoto opens space for Nour to run into. Barresi saw the run of Nour and cleverly slid in a pass that helped Nour’s momentum for his nonchalant toe-poke finish.
Hume hit back immediately with a dangerous set piece but Bulleen ‘keeper McMaster was there to provide the buffer. Walker retrieved the ball and found space to fling in a cross. However Shane Rexhepi’s headed effort flew inches over the upright.
As the game went on Hume increasing grew more desperate to get on the score sheet. Things looked to have changed when Markelis swung a ball into the area that found the head of Carley. But as the ball found the back of the net the linesman’s flag rose, as the referee adjudged the goal to be offside.
Hume had a last roll of the dice to create a nervy last few minutes. Captain Nick Hegarty’s stood over the free kick but Rexhepi again was unable to direct his header into back of the net.
Melbourne Victory 1 (Derrick 26’) Heidelberg United 4 (Ellis 3’, Doumbalis 19’, Athiu 47’, McGilp 63’)
Heidelberg United secured second place in the NPL Victoria ladder finishing above last season’s champions and bitter rivals South Melbourne after a 4-1 victory against relegated Melbourne Victory.
Heidelberg started red-hot with two first half goals courtesy of Sean Ellis and Les Doumbalis before being pegged back by Luke Derrick. However, striker Kenny Athiu sealed victory with a goal early in the second half before a Victory own goal.
It didn’t take long for Heidelberg to let their presence tell on proceedings. The away side broke the deadlock within the opening three minutes of the game after a long-range curler of a free kick from Sean Ellis.
In no time Heidelberg doubled their lead with a power strike from Les Doumbalis found the bottom corner.
Despite being relegated Victory showed character grabbing a goal soon after Doumbalis made it 2-0 for Heidelberg. Victory’s Lucas Derrick struckin the midst of a scramble in the box, finding the net for the boys in navy blue.
Athiu instantly restored Heidelberg’s previous two-goal buffer in the restart of the second half.
The game was put to bed in bitter circumstance for the home side. Victory’s Cameron McGilp attempted clearance went into his own net.
Bentleigh Greens 4 (Paczkowski 17’ 45’, Archibald 54’, Olsen 76’) Port Melbourne Sharks 1 (Goodwin 19’)
Bentleigh Greens played their final home game of the season in style going out 4-1 winners against bottom half side Port Melbourne.
Bentleigh were on a high from securing the domestic double, the Dockerty Cup and NPL Victoria title. Ryan Paczkowski opened the scoring before Alec Goodwin pegged the home side back.
The equalizer was short lived as Paczkowski completed his brace. Second half exploits from Ross Archibald and Fin Olsen rounded out Bentleigh’s victory.
Former Port man Kamal Ibrahim almost made his former employers pay when he rounded the keeper in opening minutes of the game. However, the former Melbourne Heart junior wasn’t able to finish on an acute angle.
Not long after Bentleigh were awarded a penalty after a foul on Dion Kirk. The Greens man stepped up to take the penalty but hits the bar. Paczkowski’s quick feet saved Kirk’s blushes, as he was first to the deflection to open the scoring for the home team.
Port clawed their way back with a peach of a shot from Alec Goodwin who equalized with great effect.
But moments before the break Paczkowski was Johnny on the spot again with a smartly timed run to finish a tap in.
Port was vulnerable at set plays, and Greens defender Ross Archibald’s header proved just that.
The game was rounded off with Fin Olsen grabbing his first goal on debut for Bentleigh after a run into the box and sliding finish.
Melbourne Knights 1 (McGarry 80’) Pascoe Vale 2 (Lazarides 47’, Prelevic 68’)
Pascoe Vale grabbed all three points away from home against Melbourne Knights.
Paco opened the scoring in the first minute of the second half through Matthew Lazarides, before Luka Prelevic doubled their lead midway through the half. A late McGarry goal caused a nervy few minutes as Paco held on.
Former Northcote man Marino Gasparis puts in his free kick in a dangerous position troubling Knights ‘keeper Fraser Chalmers. Luca Santilli capitalizes on the loose ball but his header hits the crossbar.
Knights trouble Paco with an attack of their own, and if not for intervention Paco would be starring at a deficit. Knights man Jurkovic bundled the ball over the line but the referee calls for offside.
Lazarides tested Chalmers, getting around the Knights shot-stopper and into a vacant net. Lazarides would make no mistake putting the away side in front right after the break.
Lazarides found himself involved again with Paco. This time with some neat play with Gonzalo Munoz before finding Prelevic who rifled the ball to make it 2-0.
With less than ten minutes to play plus stoppage time Paco concede. Knights midfielder James McGarry hit the target to beat Paco ‘keeper Dennys Martin from his right.
Richmond 1 (Barker-Daish pen 30’) Avondale FC 1 (Khrapko 52’)
By Brandon Galgano
With the visitors coming to the match on the back of a four match winning streak but with virtually nothing to play for it was always going to be interesting to see just how seriously the side from North-West Melbourne would handle the clash against a side fighting to stay in the division.
The match itself was a somewhat dour affair though as neither side really clicked into gear throughout an injury riddled first half.
The hosts opened the scoring with virtually the first shot on goal, all be it from the penalty spot, after big man Nick Niagioran was brought down in the area via a clumsy challenge from the usually ever reliable Michele Crazia in the 30th minute.
Jake Barker-Daish, who has established himself as one of the leading spot kick takers in the division this season, made no mistake from the spot, sending Chris May the wrong way to open the scoring.
Both sides were hit by injuries just before the break though with almost nine minutes of time added on at the end of the first half after extended injury breaks first coming after Jacob Williams went down with a suspected knee injury, then young right back Declan Lambert was collected by a stray boot from Oleksiy Khrapko with a suspected shattered nasal bone the result of the nasty collision.
After those two injuries had taken place just minutes before first half stoppage time it was then Avonalde who were struck by the injury curse as Abraham Yango went down clutching his calf and had to be replaced with seconds to go before half time.
Avonalde were forced into a second change at the break as Phil Riccobene was substituted meaning both sides went into the final period with just a single change up their sleeves.
It didn't take long for Avondale to level things up though as they punctured the Richmond defence with virtually their first attack of the match with a low cross finding Khrapko who slid home the finish into the bottom corner.
With news around the grounds filtering through that Bulleen were ahead of Hume and Northcote were behind against Oakleigh the intensity of the match seemed to drop right off as Richmond knew despite what they did in the end on the day, they would be playing in the relegation playoff in a few weeks time.
The full time whistle was almost music to the ears of viewers at the match with the dour affair ending at 1-1 meaning Richmond have avoided relegation, at least for the time being, to NPL2 next season.
Oakleigh Cannons 3 (Hatzimouratis 53’, Bosnjak 78’, 84’) Northcote City 0
Northcote have been relegated along with the Melbourne Victory out of the top flight of Victorian football for the 2017 season following a 3-0 final day defeat to Oakleigh on Sunday afternoon.
Having almost single handedly resurrected the clubs season since taking over half way through the campaign, embattled coach Goran Lozanovski claimed his side would go into the match ‘’with nothing to lose’’ as they sought to overtake either Richmond or Bulleen provided they won their match and hope other results on the day went their way.
The first half was a tense affair though as Oakleigh looked the most likely to open the scoring.
Goalkeeper Phil Petrovski, who now has been relegated with three seperate clubs (Moreland Zebras 2012, Goulburn Valley Suns 2014, Northcote 2016) was determined to keep his side in the match with a number of important stops but it was to no avail as Oakleigh opened the scoring just before half time through Dimitri Hatzimouratis.
The former South Melbourne man was then substituted shortly after with injury which paved the way for Dusan Bosnjak to take charge and potentially give his own Gold Medal hopes a massive boost.
The big striker made Northcote pay twice in the last twelve minutes with two composed finishes to seal the result meaning Northcote would be relegated to the second tier of Victorian football for the first time since 2009 at the hands of the man who took them up from State League two all those years ago in Peter Tsolakis, now manager of Oakleigh.
The result also sees Oakleigh lock in fourth position and a home final against Green Gully on Friday night.
South Melbourne 4 (Lujic 57’, 76’, Konstantinidis 66’, Schroen 84’) Green Gully 2 (Christodoulou 24’, Shannon 90’)
South Melbourne have entered the finals on a winning high, defeating a gritty Green Gully side 4-2 at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
With the club needing to get a result and hope that Heidelberg go down against bottom placed Melbourne Victory to attain second position on the table, things took a turn for the worse just before the half hour mark as Evan Christodoulou slotted home at the back post to make it 1-0 Gully, a lead which they held going into the break.
With the home supporters clearly getting frustrated up stepped who else but Milos Lujic to turn the match on its head, equalising just before the hour mark for his 24th of the season before defender Kristian Konstantinidis also got in on the act with his second of the campaign.
Lujic then extended that lead with just under a quarter of an hour to play, racing onto a Marcus Schroen through ball to slot home his 25th of the season before the provided turned scorer to seemingly round up the points as Schroen turning and blasting home past Rani Dowisha in the Green Gully goal to make it 4-1.
A late Lewis Foster volley, which was arguably one of the best goals we've seen in recent weeks, with the Gully man simply smashing the ball into the corner past Nikola Roganovic, was merely a consolation as South Melbourne secured the result, but with Heidelberg doing the job against the Victory it means that South will host Hume in a do or die elimination final next weekend.
CLICK HERE for match reports from PS4 NPL Victoria Women's and PS4 NPL 2 Victoria.