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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 07 September 2019
SPORT 26 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 7 SEPTEMBER 2019 Bentleigh, Bergers, Cannons and Avondale battle for Grand Final spot GEORGE STOGIANNOU There's a strong sense of deja-vu surrounding Saturday's two Victorian NPL semi-finals, with all the four contesting teams being the very same that contested the semi-finals last year. On that occasion, Avondale and Heidelberg United made it through to the Grand Finals after knocking out Bentleigh and Oakleigh Cannons respectively. Bentleigh was in good stead, until it was ambushed by a late Avondale comeback, which saw it overcome a 3-1 deficit late in the game to record a miraculous victory. In the other semi, Oakleigh Cannons was eliminated in the cruellest of ways through a penalty shoot-out at the end of extra time. On Saturday, the semi-final match-ups are different, with the Greens facing their greatest rival of recent seasons, Heidelberg United and Oakleigh travelling to Avenger Park to take on Avondale FC. Will the Cannons and the Greens make up for the disappointment of last season's agonising losses, and win a place in next season's Grand Final at AAMI Park? To do so they'll both have to overcome very difficult oppo- nents, the top two teams, over the course of the year. The Cannons booked a semifinal showdown with Avondale thanks to a 2-0 home win over Hume City in the qualifying final last week. Forward Wade Dekker scored from a Joe Guest assist just before the break, whilst midfielder Matthew Foschini added the second in the second half. The win extended the Cannons' unbeaten run to 17 matches. Their headto-head record with Avondale this season is a win apiece, with Avondale winning earlier in the season 3-1 at Avenger Park and the Cannons triumphing 4-3 at Jack Edwards later in the season. Newly appointed Bentleigh coach and occasional commentator Nick Tolios says it's going to be very hard for Oakleigh, but believes Chris Taylor's team is the dark horse. "They're 17 games unbeaten. They've got a fit and healthy squad. There's minimal changes to their line-up each week - the consistency is there," he said. "They've got a lot of experience in that team. I think that's a toss of the coin to be honest. If you've got to say anything, it's that Avondale's probably got the edge, purely because they're at home. That could be a physical tough its semi-final place against Heidelberg United, breaking a win-less run of five matches courtesy of last week's 1-0 away win at Green Gully thanks to a Daniel Stynes goal. According to Tolios, everyone who was in that squad that travelled to Gully, is available for selection on Saturday, apart from Stynes who unfortunately for the Greens picked up a red card. Oakleigh Cannons forward Wade Dekker celebrates his goal in last week’s qualifying final win against Hume City. PHOTO: OAKLEIGH CANNONS FACEBOOK game." The two teams have arguably the two best players in the league this season in Oakleigh playmaker Joe Guest and his Avondale counterpart Tasuku Sekiya. The contest could come down to which of these two players has the most influence in the game. Bentleigh Greens booked The Greens come face-toface with their fierce rivals of recent years, the Bergers. The Bergers have triumphed in both their encounters this season, 2-0 and 3-0, with the Greens yet to score against Heidelberg. Despite their inconsistent form, Tolios says the Greens remain upbeat ahead of Saturday's semi-final encounter. "They (Bentleigh) are an experienced outfit. They've got guys that have won the league before, that have won major trophies at this level. The boys have been very upbeat. They understand they've got a massive opportunity to be playing for a Grand Final spot. They're excited," he added. Tolios says the key to getting a result against the Bergers is that you've got to be prepared to have a battle. "One thing (Bergers coach) George Katsakis does well, and he's done it with every team he's had, is he always gets the boys fired up for any game, let alone a semi-final. In a final it's going to come down to who wants it the most. Who is switched on. The two teams have always had a good rivalry. You've just got to win every individual battle. That goes a long way, because there's some really good players on both sides. It's going to be an absolute cracking game." The Bergers have had a week off to give key defender Steven Pace a chance to recover from injury. With the return in recent weeks of players like Andrew Cartanos and Alex Schiavo, the Bergers have many more options up front and more options off the bench than the Greens. Tilting the balance a little back towards the Greens will be the neutral venue at Port Melbourne, as opposed to Olympic Village which is currently under renovation. SEMI FINAL SCHEDULES · Avondale v Oakleigh Cannons, Saturday 7 September, Avenger Park, 2.00 pm · Heidelberg United v Bentleigh Greens, Saturday 7 September, JL Murphy Reserve (Port Melbourne), 6.00 pm Tolios moves from Kingston City to Kingston Heath GEORGE STOGIANNOU Bentleigh Greens have finally got their man whom they initially approached to take over the senior coaching job, following the mid-season departure of long serving coach John Anastasiadis to the A-League. They have secured former Kingston City coach Nick Tolios and his assistant Bill Theodoropoulos as the club's new senior coaches for season 2020. Having coached at Kingston for the last seven seasons, Tolios was initially approached by the Greens to take over from Anastasiadis mid-season, but declined the offer at the time, choosing instead to honour his commitment to see through Kingston's season to the end. Speaking to Neos Kosmos about his appointment, Tolios said he felt some satisfaction and validation as a coach to have been offered the job. But at the same time a little bit of disappointment for the year Kingston had as well. "Obviously that's not been easy for me. But … when a team like Bentleigh are interested and keen, that means and that – see what the boys are like. So it's a bit of a funny one – but I'm helping out as much as I can at training to get the boys upbeat and give them my take on things. Its' hard, because I know the players, but it's not the same as your own team. Newly appointed Bentleigh Greens coaching team Nick Tolios (L), assistant coach Billy Theodoropoulos (R), and Bentleigh Greens CEO John Ioannou (C). PHOTO: BENTLEIGH GREENS FACEBOOK they've seen something in me that they like, and all that hard work over seven years at Kingston, has paid off," he said. Tolios's appointment is unusual in the sense that it comes on the eve of Bentleigh's biggest match of the season thus far, a semi-final meeting with Heidelberg United on Saturday. It's rare for a club to change coaches on such an occasion and Tolios admits it has put him in an awkward situation. The club asked him to take charge on match day at short notice following the departure of interim coach Frank McGrellis for overseas. Although he's agreed to help, he says he declined to take charge on match day. "Oh look, to be fair, I'm not really doing too much with Bentleigh (for this match). I'll be there supporting and helping out at training here and there, but I won't be coaching (on Saturday). I just don't think it's right, just purely because of my integrity and things like that," he said. "I'll be just watching, observing more than anything, in the rooms before the game, halftime – just to get a feel for it "It's not every day you go into a semi-final without a coach that has been there all year. You're in a semi-final, that usually means something's been going right and the coach has been doing well. It's just a tricky scenario." If the Greens do go a step further and progress to the following week's grand final, would Tolios contemplate taking charge of the team at AAMI Park? "To be honest, I haven't thought that far ahead. Everything happened very quickly this week. Having a meeting to finalise everything, it's been pretty surreal. If they get to the final, again, I'll be there to support them, but I don't think it's the right thing to do. It'll be another week with the players, it might be different. The players again, might give me their advice too. Just a hard situation to be in. A good one, a positive one because I get to experience what it's like being in a final and I also get to see what the boys are like, especially when their backs are up against it, with obviously the limited squad numbers that we've got." As for his job in the longterm, Tolios says it's going to be tough to follow in Anastasiadis' footsteps. "He gave me a lot of advice, even when I was at Kingston. But obviously I spoke to him before this was finalised," he revealed. "It's a great club, already very welcoming. Just start rebuilding once the season's over." Helping Tolios will be his assistant of five years Bill Theodoropoulos. "It's fantastic to have Billy with me; we've got a great relationship. I like him because he's not a "yes man". He's someone who voices his opinion, which is what I like. He challenges me because he puts me on the spot … which is why I think it's worked for us. It's exciting." DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM NARROW WIN Greece have made it through the first round of the FIBA World Cup successfully, after a stressful win against New Zealand by six points (103-97) and will now join Brazil, Czech Republic and the United Stated to decide who will advance to the quarterfinals. The Greek team were under a lot of pressure, a fact that was obvious from early on, and even though they maintained the lead, they simply could not break away from their scrappy opponents, who would always find a way to reduce the gap. Thanassis Skourtopoulos' players faced many problems in defence, just as they did on Tuesday night against Brazil, allowing the Kiwis many pathways to their basket and holding out on their fouls. The 'Greek Freak' was named Man of the Match, with 24 points and 10 rebounds, pulling the team out of some very difficult situations. In upcoming games Australia will face the Dominican Republic at 6.00 pm this afternoon and the United States will play Greece at 10.30 pm. GREECE’S LOSS The Greek national team has squandered their final hopes of qualifying for the 2020 European Championships, after their most recent loss to Finland in Tampere, 1-0. Despite the new leadership in former Melbourne City coach John van't Schip, it didn’t make much of a difference in the style of play, as they once again appeared uninspired, posing little threat to their opponents. Van't Schip injected some new blood into the team through Willem II duet Marios Vrousai and Vangelis Pavlidis, while at the same time giving a starting position to Dimitris Kourbelis in an attempt to invigorate the Greeks.His decision to leave key midfielders Andreas Samaris and Carlos Zeca on the bench proved to have a negative effect, the visitors having no trouble keeping their opponents outside their own area. The Finns took the lead after a clumsy challenge by Kourbelis in the 51st minute lead to a penalty kick, successfully converted by Teemu Pukki.
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