Premier Plate winners Northcote City won their first Victorian Premier League championship against Bentleigh Greens 3-2 in extra time at AAMI Park.
The winning goal came in the 108th minute from a Marino Gasparis corner getting a touch off Northcote number nine Milos Lujic.
The game kicked off with Bentleigh on the front foot, which the team from Bentleigh were for most of the first half, with a Wayne Wallace second minute shot firing over the bar after a cut back from Wellington Phoenix trialist Ryan De Vries.
Soon after Bentleigh were on the attack again, this time through their lynchpin Luke Sherbon whose shot was heroically saved by Northcote stopper Theodoridis-Petropoulos.
Nineteen minutes in Bentleigh’s left-sided attacker, De Vries, who it could be said went down too easily, was awarded a penalty. But moments later Sherbon’s penalty soared high and wide.
Bentleigh continued to trouble Northcote but were unable to make chances count with Sherbon, De Vries and McCormick having opportunities to put Bentleigh ahead before the break.
Goals came in quick succession in the second half, with Kounavelis opening the scoring for Northcote after his shot deflected off Jack Webster. Minute’s after Sherbon and De Vries would link up to peg them back to 1-1.
The first 90 minutes finished with both sides cancelling each other out, forcing the game into extra time.
In the 92nd minute of extra time, Sherbon scored a header to take Bentleigh a goal ahead from a Milovanovic set-piece.
The game had fiery moments referee Lucien Laverdure failed to control. Bentleigh Greens Luke Pilkington was at the heart of the controversy receiving a yellow card from the sidelines. He then came on in the 99th minute only to be sent off with a straight red for his sinister challenge some 13 minutes later.
Prior to the sending off, substitute Jamie Deabru was replaced by Pilkington after being left in a bloody state on the side of the pitch after an elbow went astray from Northcote skipper Adrian Chiappetta.
In the final minutes of the 1st half of extra time Northcote equalized through their top goal scorer Lujic after a cross by veteran Obradovic. Lujic took his total for Northcote to 22 goals for the entire season, with four coming in this final series and two in the Grand final.
The emotions of the game were high, as both were playing in their first Grand finals, more so in the final 15 minutes of extra time.
Northcote continued to mount pressure on the Bentleigh defense, and three minutes into the second half of extra time the side in blue had a breakthrough.
Lujic would be the hero, scoring from a Gasparis corner to seal the championship for the Premiers of 2013.
But that wouldn’t be the end of the narrative, as indicative of Bentleigh and Wallace’s game the last clear cut chance would be fluffed. Northcote’s goalkeeper Theodoridis-Petropoulos standing brave with the final save of the game.
Norhtcote City XI: 22. Chris THEODORIDIS-PETROPOULOS, 2. Adrian CHIAPPETTA, 6. Bonel OBRADOVIC, 12. Hayden D’AGOSTINO, 17. Marino GASPARIS (5. Nick TZOULIS 112’), 9. Milos LUJIC, 18. Michael EAGER, 8. James KALIFATIDIS (14. Michael CATALANO 86’), 10. Alex ROJAS (11. Dean PIEMONTE 74’), 20. Evan KOUNAVELIS, 4. Kristian KONSTANTINIDIS.
SUBS: 1. Frazer SIDDALL, 14. Michael CATALANO, 21. Harry KINIGOPOULOS, 11. Dean PIEMONTE, 5. Nick TZOULIS.
Bentleigh Greens XI: 21.Stuart WEBSTER, 2.Dominic D’ANGELO, 14.Aron WILFORD, 5.Jack WEBSTER, 6.Thomas MATTHEWS, 8.Wayne WALLACE, 19.Liam MCCORMICK (77. Stephen HATZIKOSTAS 74’), 13. Dane MILOVANOVIC, 20.Luke SHERBON, 35.David STIRTON (17. Jamie DE ABREU 67’) (24. Luke PILKINGTON 99’), 55. Ryan DE VRIES.
SUBS: 1.George MALLIARAS, 22.Mick MADAFFARI, 17.Jamie DEABRU, 24.Luke PILKINGTON, 77.Stephen HATZIKOSTAS.
Northcote City: Kounavelis (63’), Lujic (104’, 107’)
Bentleigh Greens: De Vries (68’), Sherbon (93’)
Bentleigh Greens: Luke Sherbon, Wayne Wallace, Luke Pilkington, Dane Milovanovic and Jack Webster.
Northcote City: James Kalifatidis, Hayden D’Agostino.
Bentleigh Greens: Luke Pilkington
Referee: Lucien Laverdure