South Melbourne FC has cruised into the quarterfinals of the FFA Cup with a relatively easy 4-1, Round of 16 Cup win over WA NPL Club Sorrento FC.
In contrast to their two previous nail biting FFA Cup ties, which the Lakesiders only won in the dying minutes, South gained control of the match from the outset and rarely looked like losing its grip on the tie.
South pierced the Sorrento defence almost immediately when a Nick Epifano through pass picked out the run of Milos Lujic who cut the ball back for South’s attacker Leigh Minopoulos to score inside the first minute.
The goal allowed South to settle the quicker of the two teams with Epifano, Marcus Schroen and Matt Foshini seeing plenty of the ball.
In contrast, Sorrento appeared hurried and uncertain in possession, opting for a more direct approach aimed at spearhead Sean Canham.
The visitors’ best chance to equalise came when forward Alex Morgan was released on goal but South’s keeper Nickola Roganovic guessed right to block Morgan’s shot on goal.
As often happens in football, Sorrento were made to pay for their miss when, almost immediately after, at the other end, Epifano doubled South’s lead with a first time shot from a Schroen pass.
That was soon followed just before the break by another decisive moment in the match when Sorrento striker Canham received his marching orders. It happened when Canham, after taking possession of the ball, and driving towards the box, seemed to go down without a challenge. The referee immediately booked him for simulation, and in the heated discussion that followed, the still prone Canham received a second yellow. He subsequently required help to be carried to the touchline leaving Sorrento a player down for the rest of the game and without the service of their key striker. What the ref thought was simulation was later revealed to be a genuine injury suffered by the striker, to his Achilles tendon.
South dominated the 10-man Sorrento after the break although defender Steve McDonald went close to scoring with a free header from a set piece. His effort skimmed the top of the bar.
Sorrento’s missed opportunity was followed once again, by another South goal, this time to Lujic whose far post header from a Brad Norton cross was judged to have crossed the line.
Sorrento forward Scott Witschge scored a late consolation goal for the visitors before South’s Epifano capped a man-of-the –match performance with his second goal.
After the game, South Melbourne coach Chris Taylor commented that he was pleased to have scored a relatively comfortable win.
“We weren’t totally happy at half-time. I thought we overplayed at times. Probably did some of the things we’re trying to stamp out of our game. There were good passages but probably not consistent over 90 minutes. And probably a couple of decisions went our way. That obviously told in the game in the end. We’re in the quarterfinals now, anything can happen. We could get a nice draw. If we get a draw at home and draw an A-League team that would be great as well. So we’ve really achieved what we set out to in this competition.”
South can now look forward to a week’s rest before beginning their NPL finals campaign.
Taylor says, “That was a goal. A top two in the league. If you looked at the start to the season, that was really poor. Now we’re where we wanted to be: top two in the league, still in the FFA Cup. Other than topping the league and being minor premiers – and we were fairly close to that – I think the season’s gone really well. We’ve just got Jesse Daley back who’s been on trial in Perth. The squad’s healthy. Everyone’s available. Yes, lots of good things to look forward to.”