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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 19 September 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 19 SEPTEMBER 2015 31 SPORT captures first NPL crown Bentleigh Greens Greens deny South a grand slam of trophies GEORGE STOGIANNOU The NPL Champions Trophy has landed at Kingston Heath, but the feet of Bentleigh Greens fans have barely touched the ground following the club's historic first major title win on Sunday. Hopelessly outnumbered by a partisan South Melbourne crowd, the win was all the sweeter for the Greens' supporters as they watched their side take the trophy from the reigning champion 3-1 on South's home turf at Lakeside. Warm spring sunshine bathed Lakeside in bright light, and the sounds of the final were dominated by the chants and drum sounds from the home fans. The ref's whistle signalled the appearance of an obligatory flare behind the Albert Road goal. The football in the first half was cagey from both teams, with neither team’s forward making an impact and neither keeper having to make any difficult or important saves. Instead, there were shots from distance by mid-fielders of both sides that flew harmlessly wide or straight at the keeper. As the half progressed, the unseasonal warmth took a toll on players, forcing frequent trips to the bench for a water bottle at every stoppage. After the break, the fans didn't have long to wait for the first goal of the match and it was a goal worthy of any final, as Bentleigh midfielder Troy Ruthven unleashed a left foot drive from 25 metres, which flew into the top right corner in the 51st minute. He was immediately buried under a pile of teammates including keeper Alistair Bray. Two minutes later, Greens striker Chris Lucas half volleyed over a desperate South's keeper Nikola Roganovic. Fortunately for Souths, Lucas' shot sailed over the cross bar but unfortunately for them, Roganovic picked up an injury which eventually forced him out of the match. His replacement Fraser MacLaren was soon diving to deflect a Tyson Holmes goal bound shot around the post, as the Greens sensed a vulnerable opponent. Souths coach Chris Taylor used his full quota of substitutions by halfway through the second half, bringing on David Stirton and youngster Andy Kecojevic. In the 72nd minute South's equalised through talisman striker Milos Lujic, who chested a ball into space and deftly finished past Bray with the outside of his boot. The goal brought the South faithful back to full voice as they tried to give their team momentum. But it was the Greens that rallied and finished the half strong- “Ours at last”: FFV president Kimon Taliadoros hands the NPL Champions Trophy to Bentleigh Greens captain Wayne Wallace (L) and coach John Anastasiadis (C). PHOTO: KOSTAS DEVES. er. On the stroke of half time, another decisive moment occurred when Holmes' clever turn nutmegged Iqbal Jawadi and Jawadi needlessly clipped him from behind, resulting in a second yellow to the South midfielder. There was little protest from South, but moments later the South bench and fans were up in arms as Greens skipper Wayne Wallace clattered into South's sub keeper MacLaren, leaving him motionless on the turf and raising the ire of South coach Chris Taylor, who vehemently protested to the ref at the end of full time. The Greens looked in much better shape going into extra time, with the man advantage and three subs on the bench if needed. Sensing its opponent dropping and deeper getting numbers behind the ball, the Greens went on the attack, with Holmes shooting straight at keeper MacLaren followed by a couple of Jamie Deabru shots, the first of which was charged down by Eager and the second which flew over the bar. Ten minutes into extra time, Greens skipper Wayne Wallace was in the right place at the right time to tap home from within the six yard box after a Liam McCormick free kick bounced off South defender Luke Adams. The Greens third goal came at the death with South fully stretched. Daniel Visevic's perfectly weighted left foot cross from the left flank picked out striker Lucas, who shot through keeper MacLaren's legs for the sealer. The final whistle sparked joyous celebrations amongst Bentleigh players, fans and officials. In the stands, the die hard South Melbourne supporters continued to chant, although few of those could dispute that the Greens, with their two wins and a draw record against Souths this season, were the deserved winners of the NPL Champions trophy. The NPL champions celebrate their first title win. PHOTO: KOSTAS DEVES. After the match, Bentleigh Greens coach John Anastasiadis commented: "Today I thought we were the dominant side from the first whistle ... I thought by the first 90 minutes the game should have been done and dusted, but South is that team that always finds a way and they found a way to equalise. But I thought in the end Bentleigh Greens deserved the win. "It's the first trophy for the club. I had Stan the Man in the dressing room. He said something like, 'we want to be the authors of a brand new book that Bentleigh's going to create today and that is by winning trophies', and we certainly did that. It was inspiring to watch the boys. Every tackle, every challenge, we certainly won everything. I can't ask for anything else from the boys." South Melbourne coach Chris Taylor was gracious in defeat. "I don't think we played that well, to be honest,” he said after the match “I wouldn't call it stage fright - I think they probably knocked it around a bit better than us. But then football is all about moments. There's certain moments in the game that dictates how things go. And I think it's fair to say those moments never went our way. I was more incensed with the foul on Fraser (McLaren) where we nearly lost a second keeper, which would've been a second yellow. He (Wallace) goes on to score the winning goal. But that's football. Happens every week. Some games it goes for you. Some games go against you. They're a good side. They certainly deserved to win today. I'm not bitter about the whole thing. But I'm disappointed when the result is determined by certain things or situations." Bentleigh Greens club president Kostas Bios (L) and coach John Anastasiadis savour the moment.
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