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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 21 September 2019
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 21 SEPTEMBER 2019 27 SPORT Green machine rolls on to third NPL Championship Bentleigh Greens players celebrate their title win. PHOTO: K DEVES GEORGE STOGIANNOU Bentleigh Greens has captured a record-breaking third NPL Championship crown in five years, by upsetting favourites Avondale FC in an epic rain soaked grand final at AAMI Park on Sunday evening. After 90 minutes of football, both sides were locked at 1-1 and the score remained the same at the end of extra time forcing the match into a penalty shootout. The heavens had opened up early in the match and it rained continuously through till the end. However the football gods were smiling on the Greens during the penalty shoot-out when Bentleigh Greens keeper Ryan Scott emerged the hero, saving two Avondale penalties to give his team the prized NPL Championship trophy, with a 4-3 win in the penalty shootout. Avondale began the match without speedy winger Stefan Zinni, out with a broken collar-bone sustained in the semi-final against Oakleigh Cannons the week before. Also missing was skipper and regular keeper Chris Oldfield. Soon after the start it lost experienced midfielder Jonatan Germano to an eye injury, but despite the outs it had Bentleigh Green on the back foot almost from the kick off in the opening half, pegging the Greens back and pepper- ing the penalty area with numerous crosses from corners and open play, and looking the most likely team to score. From the half hour, the Greens finally began to get some traction in the game, making advances down the right flank through right back James Xydias and some promising work from Velibor Mitrovic. However in the 42nd minute, a Liam Boland pass over the top caught out the Greens defence and found left winger Yusuf Ahmed who lashed his shot into the back of the net to give Avondale a deserved lead at the break. The Greens shuffled its midfield after the break, pushing full back James Xydias forward onto the wing and withdrawing Matthew Crooks into right back to counter Ahmed's threat. Midfielder George Lambadaridis settled into a more defensive midfield role allowing Tyson Holmes to operate more centrally as a playmaker. The moves worked well for the Greens but not before Avondale threatened to add a second goal early in the second half, with the cross bar denying a Boland header and some desperate Greens defence denying shots by Yitay Towns and Boland. Holmes started getting on the ball for Bentleigh and he created a clear chance for Xydias which forced a good save from Avondale keeper Rory Brian. However Brian was helpless to deal with the next chance for the Greens which fell to the unlikely feet of captain Jack Webster who drifted forward to receive a Holmes pass. Webster showed great technique to produce the perfect chip which sailed over the keeper's head into the net for the 61st minute equaliser. From then on, both teams missed good chances to score the winner. Matt Thurtell narrowly missed the target range, somehow managed to hit the cross bar instead. The Greens had dodged a bullet and with no further addition to the score, the match went to the lottery of the dreaded penalty shootout. The strikers were up first, with the Greens Thurtell and Avondale's Boland exchanging penalty goals. Next were the centre backs, Marko Jankovic who netted for the Greens, and Avondale's Scott Hillier whose It’s just the belief. You’ve got a lot of leaders that have been to the top, won the league, know what it’s like. “ You just have to be positive with them at half time,” said Nick Tolios, Bentleigh Greens Coach for the Greens, followed by Holmes who couldn't beat the keeper in a one on one. Greens keeper Scott denied Joe Katebian from scoring in regulation time. Extra time began with Avondale playmaker Tasuku Sekiya missing perhaps the best chance of the match. Greens keeper Scott was out of position following a desperate diving block of a long distance shot. The rebound fell to Sekiya who, faced with an unguarded net to aim at from close shot was saved by Ryan Scott, giving the advantage to the Greens. Mario Ilich and Daniel Stynes scored the next two Greens penalties whilst Brandon Lundy and Joe Katebian scored for Avondale leaving the score at 4-3 with Tyson Holmes having the chance to score the winning penalty for the Greens. Holmes nervously hesitated in his run up and went for placement rather than power, however Rory Brian saved his shot allowing Avondale the chance to draw level. Up stepped defender Charlie Beverley who struck his shot well to the right, however Scott guessed right and made a great save to send the Greens fans, players and officials into delirium. Scott was rewarded with the Jimmy Rooney medal for man of the match in the Grand Final. And so, Bentleigh Greens, in what many predicted would be a transition year, continue to do what the Greens have been doing the last few years – that is, win another major trophy and make history and set records along the way. Not only has it won an unprecedented third NPL Championship. It achieved the feat from fifth spot on the table, winning three finals on the trot. But perhaps the rarest feat of all, it did all that after having four different coaches in the course of the season. After the game, Bentleigh Greens president Con Bios told Neos Kosmos, "I never thought this year would finish this way. After Johnny A (Anastasiadis) left, I thought, OK, if they finish top six, I'll be happy. But to go to the final and win it, I never was expecting that. The boys gave 110 per cent. No one expected us to win it. But things happen. If you believe it, you can do it… Three Championship now 2015, 2017, 2019, two Dockerty Cups 2016, 2018. Bentleigh each year is always looking to win trophies." Bentleigh Greens coach Nick Tolios, who together with Bill Theodoropoulos were in the dugout at AAMI Park, coaching the team, commented post-match, "It was great for the neutrals, the chances, end to end, people putting their bodies on the line. Both teams deserved to win. The boys were just amazing. Amazing bunch of boys." Commenting on the response of the team in the second half, after trailing at the break, Tolios said, "It's just the belief. You've got a lot of leaders that have been to the top, won the league, know what it's like. You just have to be positive with them at half time. We changed our formation slightly in the second half. Avondale started (the second half really well) and we were shaky. And then the game changed towards our end and we capitalized at the right moment when Webbie scored. He was fantastic. It took a defender to have that composure to get us back on level terms. Because there were a lot of chances that the forwards missed." "The other thing I do want to mention, is to thank Johnny Anastasiadis for what he did at the start of the year and Gabbo (John Gabrielson) and Frankie McGrellis, because without them taking over at certain times throughout the year, these boys wouldn't have been in this position. They've got to take credit as well."
14 September 2019
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