There was drama aplenty as South Melbourne and Northcote City played out an entertaining 3-3 draw at John Cain Memorial on Saturday afternoon in Round Three of the VPL.
Both sides were desperate for the three points after indifferent results in the preceding two rounds.
Though the hosts found themselves completely dominated and a goal down within 25 minutes, Northcote deservedly turned the match around in a frantic 20 minute spell that saw them head into the half time break with a 3-1 lead.
Hampered by the late withdrawals of defenders Rhodri Payne and James Stefanou, the make-shift South defence looked shaky after Trent Rixon rattled the crossbar from a counter attack early on.
Fernando De Moraes continued his purple patch of scoring, hitting the back of the net for the third time this season, as the ex-patriot Brazilian looks to be capturing some of his magical 2006 form.
His goal was a rocket from well outside the box that Northcote goalie Chris Petropoulos could do little about, and capitalised on a period of complete dominance for South.
Stiven Mrkela could have doubled South’s lead from the edge of the box, but blasted the ball over the bar when the ball looked to have bounced just a little too high at the last moment.
But Northcote hit back with a wonderful goal from Nick Tzoulis, who fired past Peter Zois with an acrobatic volley from just inside the box.
Zois had made several good saves to keep his side ahead, but was helpless against the quality strike from Tzoulis.
Trent Rixon then gave Northcote the lead after receiving the ball from Bradley Norton with Nic Curtis winning the midfield battle for Northcote against his former side.
When South debutant Carl Reccia foolishly gave the ball away in South’s defence to Northcote captain George Papadopoulos, it was all one way traffic as Northcote got a third goal.
Papadopoulos found Rixon running into space, and although he looked to be at least two yards offside, he beat Zois from close range in a one-on-one contest, giving Northcote a seemingly insurmountable lead as the two sides went into the break level.
Rixon let his club down by choosing to incite the travelling South fans with a ‘mock celebration’ rather than celebrating with the large crowd of Northcote faithful who had turned out for the historic clash.
Northcote looked to resume their scoring touch when play re-commenced, but Zois had other ideas. He made two crucial saves early in the half including a great stop from Norton which he acrobatically tipped over the bar.
Sensing that a change was needed, South coach Vaughan Coveny sent on Joseph Yousef who almost immediately changed South’s fortunes. He came close twice, missing a header from point-blank range then blasting a shot out for a goal kick when he should have hit the target.
Daniel Vasilevski began to win the midfield battle as the ex-Newcastle Jet and Melbourne Victory midfielder began South’s come back when he fired truly from the edge of the box after combining with Marinos Gasparis and Recchia.
In the 83rd minute, the South Melbourne comeback was complete as Yousef set-up Vasilevski for a second goal, this time he finished off from a slight angle in the box.
The final result was arguably a fair result for both sides, which are celebrating historical milestones in 2010.
Northcote City congratulated South Melbourne before the kick-off after FIFA announced that South were officially awarded the Club Of The Century in Oceania.
South returned the favour after the match, commemorating Northcote’s 50th Anniversary with a plaque.
Curtis, one of Northcote’s best, told Neos Kosmos after the match, “I thought we had a great first half and deserved to be leading at the break. From our perspective, we felt we were worthy of the win and quite proud to push the title favourites to their limits,” he said.
“Credit to South, they came back fighting and scored two great goals to level the match,” he added.