The Bentleigh Greens produced a second half performance to run out 4-0 winners over the Melbourne Knights on Friday night at Kingston Heath.
Under the cosh for the entire first half, the Greens made the Knights pay for failing to capitalise on their dominance.
Right from the first whistle the Knights were on the front foot. The away side forced the Greens to scramble early as Josip Kozic dictated all the play in midfield and Tomislav Uskok dominated aerially.
Melvin Beckett had the first clear cut opportunity after being sent through one-on-one with Peter Gavalas. The man who recently signed from Oakleigh couldn’t beat the in-form Greens captain, who produced an outstanding block.
The visitors constantly found themselves in promising positions but could not find a breakthrough as Jack Webster and Aron Wilford made countless challenges and clearances.
When the hosts managed to spring a counterattack, they nearly scored at the first time of asking. Scott Bulloch, Michael Gwyther and Craig Smart all charged forward with the latter skying the ball over the bar at the last hurdle.
Kozic was having a stellar game in the first half and delivered a sublime free kick onto the head of Jacob Colosimo, who missed the chance to bag his fifth goal in three matches after braces against Springvale and VTC.
With five minutes remaining in the first half, the home side dealt a demoralising blow to the Knights. Wayne Wallace was in the right place at the right time to scramble the ball over the line when Martin John failed to hold Alex Rojas’ free kick.
As their confidence raised from the first half lead, Bentleigh took control of the match as Luke Pilkington, Scott Bulloch and Wayne Wallace asserted themselves on the contest.
Fifteen minutes into the second stanza the hosts increased their lead. Craig Smart found Scott Bulloch with a perfectly measured ball and the ex-Perth Glory man applied the coolest of finishes into the far corner of John’s net.
The outstanding defensive contribution from Webster enabled his team-mates in midfield to dominate the play and control the tempo.
Shaun Romein put his side in an even worse position when made a dangerous two-footed lunge on Adam Fadljevic in the 61st minute. The referee instantly produced a straight red card, reducing the visitors to ten men.
Ryan De Vries has made an instant impact when the New Zealander slotted his first goal in a green shirt after Wayne Wallace’s flick on to put the game completely out of reach.
Philip Georgiou knocked a pass for Billy Liolios to finish to make it 4-0, grabbing his first senior goal.
Bentleigh tackle cellar dwellers St Albans in what could prove to be a tricky fixture, after the Saints secured their first wins of the season back to back over VTC and Springvale last week.
The Melbourne Knights plays host to South Melbourne in a classic former NSL derby at Knights Stadium.
Bentleigh Greens: Peter GAVALAS (C, GK), Joey CALDERONE, Craig SMART (Billy LIOLIOS 80’), Michael GWYTHER, Scott BULLOCH, Alex ROJAS (Ryan DE VRIES 63’), Adam FADLJEVIC (Philip GEORGIOU 77’), Aron WILFORD, Jack WEBSTER, Luke PILKINGTON, Wayne WALLACE
Unused Subs: Luke GAVALAS, Declan KEOGH.
Yellow cards: Gwyther, Rojas, Pilkington, Wallace
Goals: Wallace 39’, Bulloch 61’, De Vries 78’, Liolios 86’.
Best players: Webster, Wallace, Bulloch
Melbourne Knights: 1. Martin JOHN, 2. Shaun ROMEIN, 3. Ryan FILIPOVIC, 5. Leo SHIN, 6. Tomislav USKOK, 10. Josip KOZIC, 11. Anthony COLOSIMO, 17. Joseph FRANJIC, 18. Melvin BECKET (7. Ridvan SAGLAM 61’), 20. Jacob COLOSIMO, 23. Mathieu-Luc WELMANT (12. Shayan ALINEJAD 68’).
Unused Subs: 19. Adam ZILIC, 15. Craig SWEENEY, 21. Aaron ROMEIN.
Yellow cards: Uskok, Franjic
Red Card: Romein
Best players: Kozic, Uskok, Shin.
By Rory Flanagan