Bell Park’s incredible win in the Geelong Cup
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Bell Park finished the final of the Morris Finance Cup at its home ground with only nine men, but a last-minute penalty kick save by keeper Angelo Di Mauro secured the victory by two-one against Corio.
There have been 36 finals in what began as the Geelong Advertiser Cup in 1981 but none quite as dramatic as this one. Corio coach Robbie Noggler had to shuffle his pack after several of his original choices had to pull out as a result of injuries and illness. Yet Corio started the more brightly and Habib Shakouri tested Di Mauro with a shot which the keeper smothered, then Nathan Cook curled in a free kick which was turned aside for a corner kick.
Bell Park took the lead in the 17th minute after one of its first sustained attacks when Mijo Marinovic was allowed to juggle the ball just inside the penalty area before lobbing it over Corio keeper Sam Versace. The lead only lasted a couple of minutes as Nathan Cook broke clear and finished sweetly. Bell Park fans were sure their team had regained the lead following a corner kick on the right in 34 minutes, but the ball had gone out of play before swinging back in the wind. Park lost big striker Matt Demo to a knee injury in the first half, which finished even at one-all.
Both sides created early chances in the second half, with Corio looking the more threatening. Andrew Palmieri had been booked earlier but on the hour mark he once again put in a rash challenge leaving referee Milenko Bosnjak little alternative but to send him off. As sometimes happens, the ten-men of Bell Park seemed to lift their collective game and substitute Frank Modica completed a flowing move involving Marinovic and Liam Page with a critical goal in the 64th minute. Twice Marinovic came close to adding to the lead, first with a long solo run and shot which cleared the bar, then with a precise lob over the keeper which came back of the crossbar.
Corio, realising the game was slipping away from them, began a series of attacks that included a long drive by Hayden Reed, and a point blank effort by Cook saved by Di Mauro. There were less than a couple of minutes left to play when two scrambles took place in the Bell Park goalmouth, during the second of which a hand was used to keep the ball from crossing the goal-line. Patrick Mileto became the second Bell Park player to be sent off. Corio skipper, Ronnie Clayson, took responsibility for the penalty kick, and his coach and I both said we would have put our houses on him scoring and taking the game to extra time. The penalty was well and accurately struck, but the inspired Di Mauro dived to save. In stoppage time there were more alarms in the Bell Park penalty area, but eventually the ball was hoofed downfield as the whistle went for full time.
This is Bell Park’s third win in the long-running pre-season cup, all of which have come at Bell Park Sports Club in Batesford. Park won the inaugural competition in 1981 and again in 1988. For Corio, which contributed largely to the final, this is the fifth time in succession they have reached the final and all have been lost.
In the match for third place, Geelong was too good for Lara United, winning by three goals to one. Louis Bentley, Joshua Talev and Daniel Conte scored for Geelong, while Ben Houston had his penalty kick saved by Dylan Nikolovski, but then scored Lara’s goal in the second half.