Melbourne Knights and South Melbourne shared the points on Sunday afternoon, playing out a 2-2 draw at Knights Stadium in a drama-filled derby.
Fighting their way into the lead after conceding in just the second minute, the Knights had to make do with a man less on the park for the majority of the second half, after Marijan Cvitkovic was given a straight red in the 56th.
South eventually equalised through Shaun Kelly in 75th, cancelling out Jake Nakic’s wonder strike in what was a thrilling match between the two traditional rivals, but Knights’ coach Andrew Marth was left to rue the lack of discipline from his own players.
“Obviously we went down to a lack of concentration in the first five minutes. We deserved to go up 2-1, and then that act of stupidity virtually cost us the three points and the finals,” Marth said after the match.
Despite the result and what it means for their season, Marth still believes it is mission accomplished for the Knights.
“First and foremost we didn’t want to get relegated, and we’ve achieved that, but now with four games left, I reckon we can try a few things.”
With coach Peter Tsolakis still serving a touchline ban, South got off to the perfect start, however, going a goal to the good while people were still making their way into the ground.
In only the second minute, Bradley Norton left Shayan Alinejad and Anthony Colosimo for dead on the right wing, before cutting back to an unmarked Joe Keenan, whose first touch allowed him to coolly finish off South’s first possession.
Immediately looking to chase the game, the Knights left themselves open at the back, with Fernando De Moraes fashioning a few chances for himself, but a determined Ben Surey and Tomislav Uskok eventually started to gain control of the midfield.
Jake Nakic was the Knights’ beneficiary of such determination, on hand to equalise in the 33rd minute, after some great work from Kayne Vincent to battle a seemingly lost cause and provide the assist.
After a good start, South started to lose their composure in the middle, and had keeper Peter Gavalas to thank for keeping scores level in the 42nd minute, with a fine reflex save from Shayan Alinejad’s deft backheel.
More goals looked certain at the interval, and Fernando De Moraes had himself a golden opportunity for South to retake the lead in the 52nd, but the unmarked Futsalroo’s first-time effort failed to hit the target from 10 metres, as the Knights defence opened up.
The Knights responded two minutes later through Jake Nakic, who scored his sixth of the season in spectacular fashion.
Marijan Cvitkovic was challenged cutting in from the right wing, and with the bouncing loose ball, Nakic slammed the ball into the top right-hand corner from 25 metres with his first touch, bringing the vocal home crowd to their feet.
In the 56th however, Cvitkovic was given his marching orders, receiving a straight red for his hasty reaction at being pushed, throwing the ball at his South opponent.
The red immediately changed the complexion of the game as South took over, and the pressure soon told, with Shaun Kelly equalising in the 75th minute, punishing Aaron Romein for his fumble from a dead ball.
Young substitute Baggio Yousif had a chance deep into injury time to steal the win for the visitors, but both sides were content at the end of the day to share the points.
“The way we played, we weren’t ourselves. We turned the ball over quite a lot and made it into a bit of a tussle. We had a few chances ourselves, before that wonder goal which put us on the back foot, but 2-2 was probably a fair result,” South assistant Joe Montemurro said post-match.
“After we scored, we just didn’t control the game the way we should have and gave them the opportunity to come at us. For young Baggio, it would have been a fantastic finish for him, but you’ve got to put them away. In the end, we’ll take the point.”
Melbourne Knights line-up: 1. Aaron ROMEIN, 2. Adam NAKIC, 4. Adam ZILIC, 6. Tomislav USKOK, 8. Craig SWEENEY (3. Ryan FILIPOVIC 78’), 10. Kayne VINCENT, 11. Anthony COLOSIMO, 12. Shayan ALINEJAD (19. Yusuf YUSUF 65’), 16. Marijan CVITKOVIC, 23. Jake NAKIC (22. Chris TALAJIC 72’), 24. Ben SUREY
Goals: Nakic 33’, 54’
Yellow Cards: Uskok 42’
Red Cards: Cvitkovic 56’
South Melbourne line-up: 1. Peter GAVALAS, 3. Rhodri PAYNE, 6. Dimi TSIARAS, 7. Joe KEENAN, 10. Glen TRIFIRO (18. Marinos GASPARIS 83’), 11. Brad NORTON, 12. Steve BURTON, 13. Luke BYLES, 14. Andy VLAHOS, 15. Fernando DE MORAES (16. Baggio YOUSIF 87’), 19. Shaun KELLY
Goals: Keenan 2’, Kelly 75’
Yellow Cards: Vlahos 45, Keenan 84’