South Melbourne has cemented a spot in the finals for the first time since 2006, following a hard fought 1-0 victory at Bob Jane Stadium on Saturday.
Going into the contest, a South Melbourne win would ensure them a spot in the finals, while a Sunshine win would of seen the Georgies jump the Blues into the finals position.
With all to play for, South burst out of the blocks, attacking the Sunshine goal from the outset.
Despite dominating play, the Blues could not muster a genuine shot on target, with the closest in the early stages being Goran Zoric, who hit a shot wide of the goal.
South’s best chance of the half came from a speculative long range effort by Rhodri Payne. In what seemed to be a miss hit cross, the strong wind at lakeside caught hold of the ball and floated it into the top right hand corner of the target.
With the ball seemingly heading for a goal, Sunshine goalkeeper Martin John made a tremendous save to acrobatically tip the ball around for a corner.
With 45 minutes remaining in one of South or Sunshine’s season, both clubs came out breathing fire and the opening 15 minutes of the half saw some of the hardest tackling of the year by both teams.
The 65th minute of play, one of the most phenomenal pieces of play in 2009, saw South Melbourne take the much sought after lead.
With a Sunshine player receiving treatment on the ground, Sunshine kicked the ball out as part of the fair play procedure.
As expected, South Melbourne’s Fernando De Moraes threw the ball to the wide-open Sunshine goalkeeper Martin John inside his own area.
After clapping Fernando’s sportsmanship, John took a series of touches in the area, before being set upon by the South attackers.
While John remained unaware that anyone was running at him, Fernando cheekily pinched the ball from the feet of the goalkeeper and streamed into the open goal to give South the advantage.
In response to John’s horrific awareness and decision-making, Sunshine became occupied initially with trying to extract revenge on the Brazilian maestro, by focussing on launching a series of stern challenges onto the individual, rather than trying to peg back the goal.
Responding to the way Sunshine were playing, SMFC coach Michael Michalakopoulos removed Fernando from the game in fear that the playmaker would sustain an injury.
In the final 20 minutes of the game, South squandered a series of chances to double its advantage, however they lacked that killer instinct in the final third.
With misses by Sam Torrens, Gianni De Nittis and Joseph Youssef, South fans were left with a nervous final five minutes.
In this final five minute period, Sunshine finally provided some sustained pressure at the South Melbourne goal. The Georgies won a series of free kicks around the area, as well as a numerous corners as they pushed for an elusive equaliser.
In the 90th minute, Fidel Richards came closest for the Georgies, with the former FC Clifton Hill attacking player missing a headed opportunity from the corner.
Richards found space inside the area and launched a well hit headed effort over the bar and out from the goal kick.
With the final whistle came the roar of the home fans, who would once again see their beloved team in the finals. At the same time, Sunshine players and officials surrounded referee Perry Mur to voice their approval about the Fernando goal to give South the win.
Highlights of the game can be seen on smfcTV which can be found at www.smfc.tv.
South Melbourne FC 1 (Fernando De Moraes)
Sunshine Georgies 0
Crowd: Approximately 1500 people at Bob Jane Stadium