Unstoppable South downs Ballarat
By Shaun Moran (@moranshaun)
South Melbourne has continued its stunning start to the season by securing a hard fought 2-1 win over Ballarat in an historic encounter at Morshead Stadium on Saturday.
Wintery and wet conditions greeted the players at Ballarat’s new multi-million dollar stadium which hosted its first ever match.
It was Chris Taylor who was the happier of the coaches early on when Milos Lujic coolly slotted home the opener 10 minutes in.
Iqbal Jawadi’s menacing run through the centre of the park preceded a lateral pass to the 2013 Victorian Premier League Golden Boot winner, who side-footed the ball in at the near post.
It didn’t take much longer for South to notch up its second and virtually put the game beyond reach.
Michael Eagar’s low cross into the area from the byline was forced in by Jamie Reed in the midst of a sea of bodies.
Dane Milovanovic did breathe life back into the match right on halftime. His superbly placed curling free kick from near to 25 yards out nestled itself into the top corner of the net to give the home faithful something to sing about in a match which would be without any goals in the second half.
South Melbourne’s blistering first half ultimately proved the difference and set up its seventh successive win and its best start to a season in its entire history.
Reed’s drive from just inside the 18-yard box rattled the cross bar only minutes after Lujic had drawn first blood.
Charlie King responded shortly after for Ballarat with a galloping run from right-back that culminated in his shot sailing just over the woodwork.
Lujic and Reed’s interlinking play almost paid dividends in the closing stages of the first half, but the latter’s shot was excellently foiled by Aaron Romein.
Reed had another attempt with the opposite foot that flew marginally wide of the post which would have sealed the result.
The home side looked to finally work its way into the match in the second period after being buoyed by its goal.
It adapted well to the heavy downpour and moved the ball around confidently without having a final ball that could split open South’s defence.
The heavy schedule over recent weeks seemed to take its toll on the Red Devils though as the top-of-the-table South wrestled back the ascendancy and held on to its lead comfortably.
Its boss Chris Taylor was delighted with his side breaking its club record for most wins to start the season.
“I’m pleased with the overall seven games although I’m not entirely happy with the performance today,” Taylor said.
“In the first 25 minutes, I thought that we were outstanding. We created lots of chances and probably could have had two or three more goals.
“But sometimes you have to take the wins that you’re not entirely happy with.”
Ballarat coach James Robinson was upbeat when reflecting on his team’s second-half showing.
“We’ve given them a two-goal lead but it was a much improved performance in the second half and we can take a lot of positives from it,” Robinson said.
“We learn from it and we move on.”
His team will hope to go one step better next Saturday night when it hosts Port Melbourne, while South Melbourne returns to Lakeside Stadium to face Bentleigh on Sunday afternoon.
Ballarat Red Devils 1 (Milovanovic 45’+3) lost to South Melbourne 2 (Lujic 11’, Reed 21’) at Morshead Stadium [HT: 1-2]
Ballarat Red Devils: 1. Aaron ROMEIN, 21. Charlie KING, 25. Steven THOMSON, 18. Daniel O’DONNELL, 19. Daniel FIRTH (30. Ibrahim GHULAMI 75’), 3. Daniel TINKLER, 13. Michael TRIGGER (35. Adrian CURTAIN 85’), 15. Dominic SWINTON (12. Miles BAKER 67’), 4. Dane MILOVANOVIC, 22. Pat KARRAS, 31. Simon MURPHY.
Unused subs: 40. Jordan FRANKEN, 2. Tristan ROMEIN.
Yellow Cards: Milovanovic (55’), Ghulami (84’)
Red Cards: Nil
South Melbourne: 1. Jason SALDARIS, 2. Tim MALA, 4. Michael EAGAR, 7. Nick EPIFANO (15. Kobbie BOAHENE 60’), 8. Mathew THEODORE, 9. Milos LUJIC, 10. Tyson HOLMES (6. Dimi TSIARAS 84’), 11. Brad NORTON, 12. Iqbal JAWADI, 14. James MUSA, 17. Jamie REED (27. Leigh MINOPOULOS 75’)
Unused subs: 3. Andrew MULLETT, 20. Slaven VRANESEVIC.
Yellow Cards: Musa (70’), Tsiaras (91’)
Red cards: Nil
Pictured: South Melbourne goalscorer Milos Lujic in possession (Image credit: Cindy Nitsos)