Rory Flanagan – www.footballfedvic.com.au
MELBOURNE Knights scraped past bottom-placed Southern Stars with a 1-0 win at Kingston Heath on Saturday evening.
After some impressive performances in the past few weeks, the Knights have looked poor in their last two fixtures against Green Gully and now the Stars, but it was Marijan Civtkovic’s early goal which proved enough to save their blushes and secure all three points.
The Knights made all the early inroads on a playing surface that backed up quite well after recent rain and the Bentleigh v Pascoe Vale fixture on Friday night.
Cvitkovic finished well to put his side a goal up after the Stars failed to mark him on the edge of the box, and their momentum continued with James McGarry smacking a rising drive over the bar shortly after.
Andrew Marth’s men were highlighting the gulf in class between the two teams as the Knights repeatedly scythed through midfield with consummate ease.
A close-range effort from the in-form Andrew Barisic following a dummy by Ljubo Milicevic was blocked and that finally seemed to provide the wake-up call for the Stars.
Stars debutant Lewis Smith began to settle and retained the ball up front for his side, allowing the defence some much needed respite.
He managed to fashion first chance himself, cutting onto his left boot but firing straight at Chris May in goals.
Just as things began to look even, the host fell asleep again and Knights stuck the ball in the net via a McLachlan-McGarry short free kick.
The referee initially awarded the goal but after consulting with his assistant, he reversed the decision due to Adam Zilic obstructing ‘keeper Joe Woolley’s view from an offside position.
The margin remained at just the one goal at the break and Zaya Younan’s men were counting their lucky stars – pardon the pun.
Barisic looked to kick things off shortly after the break but screwed his effort horribly wide of the target, unable to recapture the scoring touch he has shown since joining midseason.
Shayan Alinejad became ineffectual and was replaced by Chris Talajic as Marth looked to freshen up his stale-looking side.
First-half Stars sub Luke Burgess eagerly tried his luck from some way out after dancing past two players but joined the mile-high, mile-wide club with a woeful strike.
UK import Smith was getting better as the match wore on and could quite easily have had his name on the scoresheet if not for some tidy defending by Zilic and Milicevic, who have been integral to the Knights’ ambitions this season.
Andrew Viola emulated his defensive partner Burgess with a slalom run through the middle of the park but was shut down just as he shaped to shoot, and that was as close as the luckless team in red was going to get.
Keeping the ball was like finding a needle in a haystack for the Knights, who really could have been punished by a more clinical team in the final third.
Nonetheless, three points was the main aim and that is what they obtained.
Andrew Marth was not impressed with the shift his side put in.
“A team second or third playing against the bottom team, it’s a total embarrassment on behalf of the Knights,” Marth said.
“I thought our distribution was diabolical.”
Stars captain Ramazan Tavsancioglu was positive despite not getting a result.
“Definitely a massive improvement from the last few games,” Tavsancioglu said.
“I’m sure we’ll get a result in the coming weeks. It’s a long time coming.We’re just gonna continue on and go from there.
“We had Lewis (Smith) come in for his first game, he did really well, held up (the ball), had a few chances.. With a couple of games under his belt, people will be watching.”
Next weekend sees both sides play 3pm Sunday games – the Stars away to Northcote, while the Knights have one of the biggest matches this season against Bentleigh at Knights Stadium.
Joe Woolley (GK), Ali Hameed (Luke Burgess 20′), Andrew Viola, Ramazan Tavsancioglu (C), Vincent Bontemps (Cristian Cristea 87′), Alon Blumgart, Ryan Hervel (David Obaze 61′), Jiri Kabele, Nicholas McKoy, Ali Turgut, Lewis Smith.
Unused: Didier Imbert, Abdul Koç
Yellow card: Bontemps 50′
Best: Smith, McKoy, Viola
Christopher May (GK), Adam Zilic (C), Ljubo Milicevic, James McGarry, Andrew Barisic (Jacob Colosimo 74′), William McLachlan, Marijan Cvitkovic (Josh Berrios 87′), Milan Batur, Ben Surey, Shayan Alinejad (Chris Talajic 57′), Sam Torrens.
Unused: Matthew Hrastov
Goals: Cvitkovic 7′
Yellow card: McGarry 88′
Best: Cvitkovic, McLachlan, Zilic, Milicevic.