Having come off a five day break and a loss to Avondale, Port Melbourne entered Wednesday night’s game with a chance to not only go to the next round of the cup competition, but to return to winning ways.
Sunshine George Cross haven’t been in the best of form in NPL2 West this season, and they too were looking to turn things around. Their line-up included some familiar faces, with former Sharks Martin Mason, Denis Dasoul and Chris Grossman among their starting line-up.
The game starting off with the usual midfield battles, though the Sharks started to find their groove and space behind the George cross defence after 10 minutes. Lambros Honos had a brilliant chance on 12 minutes after being one on one with the George Cross goalkeeper Matthew Jones, though his effort dribbled wide.
Jamie De Abreu found space on the right hand side on 13 minutes, though his effort was dealt with by the George Cross defence. Then on 15 minutes David Stirton was played in behind, with Stirton comfortably putting the ball past Jones and into the back of the net to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead.
On 28 minutes Adrian Zahra had a goal disallowed for offside, though the quick touches between Honos and Stirton to play Zahra behind the defence were very classy. The Sharks continued to press but couldn’t get that second goal. With the score still at 1-0 at the main break, Sharks manager Eric Vassiliadis rallied his troops to find another gear.
His pep talk seemed to work effectively as Zahra on 47 minutes and Stirton two minutes later saw the Sharks take the wind out of the sails of George Cross. Zahra’s goal was brilliant as he out-reached over his defender at the far post to head the ball in from a De Abreu cross. Stirton’s goal was a clinical finish after he was played in by Zahra, with his stinging left foot shot finding the bottom right hand corner of the goal.
Stand-in captain Alan Kearney was subbed off on 53 minutes with a slight injury, as well as Jacob Eliopoulos on 66 minutes but both seemed to be okay after the game. Sunshine pegged a goal back from Samuel McCall to give his side some hope. His effort saw him latch onto a ball in the box and put it away nicely.
Their joy was short lived though, with Zahra scoring again on 72 minutes and substitute Erhan Yalaz scoring on 76 minutes saw the score line out of reach. Yalaz’s goal was immaculate as he turned right back Moses Gondwe inside out, with the rocket left foot shot shacking the right side of the George Cross goal.
Stirton had another chance four minutes later, though his header was just over the bar. The scoring continued as Zahra completed his hat-trick on 86 minutes with a well guided right foot shot into the bottom right corner of the George Cross goal to give the team a sixth and a passage into the next round of the FFA Cup.
Vassiliadis did say after the match he was pleased with how the players came out the second half, with some key positives ahead of the NPL round 10 game with Bulleen on Monday night.