MoeUnited was crowned Gippsland Soccer League champion yesterday for the first time since 1989 in one of the competition’s most dramatic finales on record.
Moe defeated Churchill in the title race. Pictured is Matthew Shearing. photographs mdr digital images
In need of a win to secure the silverware following Churchill’s loss to Fortuna on Saturday night, the Red Devils scored on the stroke of full-time to defeat Traralgon City 2-1 at Olympic Park, Moe.
Sam Lietzau was the hero with two second half goals, dragging Moe across the line after City went up 1-0 before the break.
Red Devils coach and defender Lee Dastey said the team and its supporters were overcome with “jubilation” when Lietzau’s last gasp winner sealed a championship which three weeks ago looked out of reach.
“It’s a fantastic feeling for us and a big relief. To leave it so late… the pressure built all day, we didn’t really have one of our best days, but to get the goal with two or three minutes to go was just a fantastic feeling,” Dastey said.
“I think we had that feeling (late on), deep down that maybe it wasn’t going to be our day and the goal (was) not going to come, and to be honest we couldn’t see where one was going to come from, but to get one so late on it was relief and jubilation.”
A resilient City unit, which thwarted a Moe penalty on the day, held out to the last, but the Red Devils never wavered from the plan that served them so well all year.
“We spoke about it before the game, regardless of the situation, not to panic,” Dastey said.
“We were in that position for a reason; we weren’t going to make wholesale changes or substitutions or positional changes no matter what was happening.
“We were pretty confident if we kept plugging away we would get the goals and we made a couple of forced changes and it did reshuffle us around a little bit but I guess it worked out in the end.”
Trailing the Rams by two points ahead of the final round, Moe had to endure an anxious week of waiting with their hopes hinging on a Fortuna victory.
Churchill rallied from 2-0 behind to level scores on Saturday night, and had a penalty cry turned down, before Fortuna netted to win 3-2.
Dastey said the focus on that clash had affected Moe’s mindset in the lead up to yesterday’s match, and the pressure intensified when the chance to win the league crystallised.
“All the talk and the thoughts were about what was going to happen Saturday night rather than actually trying to get their mind on the job,” he said.
“It was a different type of build up because it was a short turnaround (and) even though you knew it could have happened (Churchill losing) I think to get the mind on the job was a pretty quick job to do after (Saturday) night.
“That maybe explained the slow start that we had, it wasn’t a great performance to be honest but we got the win.”
Churchill seemed impervious in the first half of the fixture and appeared to be cruising toward another league title after round 15, holding an eight point lead over Moe with three rounds to play.
Losses to Olympians, Moe and Fortuna in the final rounds derailed the Rams’ defence who will now look for consolation in the finals series.
“It was a great feeling in the end, it did come down to the wire,” Dastey said.
“Three weeks ago we thought there was no chance this was going to happen and thankfully Churchill has probably had their bad period and things didn’t go to plan over the last three weeks and we contributed to that.
“It’s been an exciting finish.”
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