Greens scorch Knights

BENTLEIGH Greens has edged slightly closer to its first-ever VPL Grand Final after a 4-2 win over Melbourne Knights at Knights Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Luke Sherbon was the man of the match after securing a hat-trick for the Greens, with David Stirton scoring the other. Andrew Barisic and Christopher Talajic were the men on the scoresheet for the Knights.
Bentleigh will now face VPL minor premier Northcote City next week to determine which will be the first side to qualify for the grand final.
With 17 goals between them in their past five encounters, there was always going to be the chance of a goal-fest in this qualifying final, and the opening 10 minutes of the game gave us all a teaser of what was in store.
Just 90 seconds into the contest, Ryan De Vries stamped his mark as a threat when he dispossessed Knights right-back William McLachlan and released a shot that rolled – thankfully for Knights goalkeeper Christopher May – right into his arms.
The next major opportunity on goal came after eight minutes when Shayan Alinejad hit a strike that deflected up to Andrew Barisic who then mishit his header, but Marijan Cvitkovic blasted the loose ball way over the bar from inside the box.
Alinejad, renowned for his quick and nippy skills, dribbled his way past the flat-footed Bentleigh defence minutes later but was unable to hit any other target except for Bentleigh goalkeeper Stuart Webster.
Shortly after that Barisic showed his immense class with a sublime through ball to Anthony Colosimo, despite having his back towards goal. Unfortunately, Colosimo was not able to provide a finish that the ball deserved.
Things started to get a bit heated with Milan Batur booked for the Knights, before Dane Milavanovic was lucky not to be sent off for the Greens after a cynical kick on Sam Torrens.
De Vries should have put Bentleigh ahead after 18 minutes but won a corner instead when his strike was deflected out by Adam Zilic.
Liam McCormick took the corner and his curling effort was helped by the wind onto the far post and out.
The momentum began to shift towards Bentleigh as it started to get into its motion and cause the Knights defence some problems.
De Vries and Milovanovic went close before the deadlock was finally broken.
A Knights free-kick turned into a Bentleigh counter-attack but Luke Sherbon was held back by Colosimo who picked up a ‘professional’ yellow card.
The free-kick was played to the back post before it was hit across the face of the goal and into the path of Sherbon.
Bentleigh almost had a second minutes later when De Vries got past McLachlan with a cheeky little flick and a burst of pace before cutting inside, but his goal-bound strike was blocked by Torrens.
But Bentleigh did not have to wait long for an important second goal.
McCormick held up the ball, spotted the run of Sherbon and played the striker through with a fantastic through ball.
There was hardly a doubt in anyone’s mind whether Sherbon would tuck it away.
The Knights had to respond immediately and within seconds of the kick-off Barisic found Marijan Cvitkovic in the centre, but the midfielder hit his acrobatic strike wide of the post.
Barisic had a chance himself a few minutes later but once again the shot was unable to trouble Webster.
But then a moment of madness by Bentleigh midfielder Wayne Wallace saw him gift the Knights a penalty right on the stroke of halftime after an unnecessary challenge on Ben Surey in the box.
Barisic took the ball, placed it down on the penalty spot and sent Webster the wrong way. Game on.
Anastasiadis would have been the happier of the two coaches going into the break but he knew Bentleigh would need to grab the next goal to retake control and the momentum of the match. And it did just that.
David Stirton, part of Bentleigh’s ruthless front four, flew past the Knights defence and, despite shanking his shot, found the back of the net to make it 3-1 and restore the two-goal advantage it should have had at halftime.
Knights coach Adnrew Marth knew he needed to shake things up to get his side back in the game and brought on Christopher Talajic in place of Anthony Colosimo after just 54 minutes.
Seconds after the hour mark, the brave moved paid off.
Batur hit in a dangerous cross with Talajic rising above and heading it down to the right of Webster.
The goalkeeper got a hand on the ball but instead of parrying it away he parried the ball over his own head, with the ball trickling into the back of the net. It was game on once again.
The Knights have earned the reputation this season – and in many previous seasons – of having a never-say-die attitude and it was definitely on display.
But no matter how close the Knights would get, Bentleigh would soak up the pressure and then slam the door shut.
With the Knights seemingly back in the game, it was time for Sherbon to step up and deliver.
After a bit of a scramble in the box where a number of glorious chances were wasted, Sherbon stood up and blasted a shot into the bottom corner from just outside the box. Surely it was game over.
Marth had one last trick up his sleeve though, taking off captain and central defender Adam Zilic and chucking on striker Jacob Colosimo. It was all or nothing for the Knights.
It was almost a case of déjà vu when Alinejad played in a low cross to the substitute five minutes later, but unlike Talajic, he could not bring the Knights back to within one goal.
Colosimo went close again minutes later but once again hit it the wrong side of the post.
The Knights had one last chance through Ben Surey, but to the dismay of the 1,000 plus supporters at Somers St, it fizzed past the post. It just was not meant to be.
Marth was obviously disappointed with his side’s inability to finish despite creating more of the chances throughout the game.
“They had the killer finish today,” Marth said.
“We created a lot more chances but we didn’t put the ball in the back of the net.
“You can’t coach finishing and unfortunately that’s where we lacked today.”
Bentleigh coach John Anastasiadis was content with the lethalness in the final third and his side’s ability to put away its chances.
“That was the key today,” Anastasiadis said.
“We knew that play with one-on-one at the back and we took advantage today.”
“We were brilliant today and thought we thoroughly deserved the victory.”
Bentleigh takes on Northcote City at JL Murphy Reserve next weekend with the winning side granted entry into the grand final, while the Knights host rival South Melbourne on Friday night to determine who plays the loser of the major semi-final.
Melbourne Knights XI: 1. Christopher MAY, 4. Adam ZILIC (9. Jacob COLOSIMO 72’), 6. James McGARRY, 7. Andrew BARISIC, 8. William McLACHLAN, 10. Marijan CVITKOVIC (5. Tomislav USKOK 79’), 11. Anthony COLOSIMO (17. Christopher TALAJIC 54’), 12. Milan BATUR, 14. Ben SUREY, 19. Shayan ALINEJAD, 24. Sam TORRENS
Unused substitutes: 20. Matthew HRASTOV, 3. Ryan FILIPOVIC.
Goals: Andrew Barisic 45’ PEN, Christopher Talajic 61’
Yellow cards: Milan Batur 14’, Anthony Colosimo 30’, Shayan Alinejad 67’, James McGarry 73’
Bentleigh Greens XI: 21. Stuart WEBSTER, 2. Dominic D’ANGELO, 14. Aron WILFORD, 5. Jack WEBSTER, 6. Thomas MATHEWS, 8. Wayne WALLACE (24. Like PILKINGTON 64’), 19. Liam McCORMICK, 13. Dane MILOVANOVIC, 20. Luke SHERBON, 35. David STIRTON (11. Kristopher KIOUSSIS 90’), 55. Ryan DE VRIES (17. Jamie DE ABREU 81’)
Unused substitutes: 1. George MALLIARAS, 77. Stephen HATZIKOSTAS.
Goals: Luke Sherbon 31’, 39’, 70’, David Stirton 51’
Yellow cards: Dane Milovanovic 15’, Thomas Mathews 29’, Wayne Wallace 45’

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