The Melbourne Knights came from behind twice to clinch the valuable three points from reigning VPL Champions Dandenong Thunder in an entralling spectacle between two serious finals contenders. After trailing 0-2 and 2-3 on a wet Sunday afternoon at Knights Stadium, the Knights found the extra bit of determination after encouraging words from coach Andrew Marth and the support in the stands carrying the team on to victory.
Classy Englishman Tommy Fraser and Jacob Colosimo got the Knights first two goals to level the match, but it was Hassan Daramy who had to pull back the match on equal footing after the Knights conceded a late goal against the run of play which gave captain-courageous Adam Zilic a fairytale opportunity to put away a scrambled injury time goal to give the Knights all three points.
Dandenong started off well, creating the first chance of the match on five minutes as former Knights centre-back Bryan Bran headed home from a good cross to put the away side up 1-0. The Knights could have got one back 6 minutes later, when a header from Marijan Cvitkovic came close as it skimmed the outside of the post. It was almost a case of déjà vu when Shayan Alinejad’s cross found Jacob Colosimo inside the box with the keeper of his line, much like the second goal against Southern Stars in Round 6, but Colosimo was unable to keep his flick header on target.
Luke Hopper should have put the away side up 2-0 after getting onto a great through ball from Nathaniel Foster, beating the keeper but being denied by the goal post. However Faisal Safa was on hand in the 25th minute, as he slid the ball home at the back post after a great dead ball from captain Shane Rexhepi.
Tommy Fraser got one back for the Knights on 37 minutes, when Alinejad played him in the box, calmly putting the ball past Thunder keeper Zaim Zeneli. Despite both sides having chances to get on the scoresheet again, the scores were locked at 2-1 until the half time break.
The Knights came out firing in the second half and five minutes in Alinejad did well on the left wing to break into the attacking third, only for his shot to be blocked by the Thunder defence. A minute later Cvitkovic played a ball across goal to Fraser who was just inches wide of finding an equaliser for the home side. But the Knights finally broke through in the 52nd minute after some great teamwork. Fraser played the ball wide to Cvitkovic, who found Jacob Colosimo in the box with his back to the goal, Colosimo did well to turn and put the ball through the smallest of gaps between the post and Thunder keeper to make it 2-2.
After letting a 2-0 lead slip, Thunder got back into the game with a series of chances before going up 3-2. Foster created two great chances, beating Knights keeper Chris May to the ball the nippy forward had an open goal from a tight angle but his non-preferred left foot prevented the Knights from being punished, rolling the ball into the side netting. A minute later, Foster beat Tomislav Uskok on the left wing to put a ball across the face of goal with no one there to slot it home.
Thunder finally broke through with a third goal in the 81st minute – playing a great ball in behind the defence, with May in two minds, Foster pounced and played the ball across goal, deflecting up into the path of Tim Mala who had no hesitation in putting the ball into the back of the net.
However Thunder’s lead was short lived, only two minutes later substitute Hassan Daramy scored with what was one of his first touches in the game when he got onto the end of a cross with a poor mistimed effort, leaving the away side in shock as the ball trickled into the back of the net to level the match at 3-3.
May made up for his earlier error in the dying minutes as he narrowly beat Foster to a one on one, before denying Foster again with a last ditch effort as the ball hit him in the face and went over the bar.
The Knights completed their comeback in the 92nd minute after Abu Konteh was brought down outside the area. Tommy Fraser played a free kick into the box, which spilled to the feet of Adam Zilic who fired home to give the Knights a 4-3 win and all three points, sending the home fans into a frenzy, while the away fans immediately made their way out amidst some misty rain which only added to the drama of this classic encounter of two free playing attacking teams.
The Knights have a week off, before taking on South Melbourne in the derby at Lakeside on the 16th of June.
Melbourne Knights: Chris MAY, Adam ZILIC, Tomislav USKOK, Tommy FRASER, Jacob COLOSIMO (Abu KONTEH 89′), Marijan CVITKOVIC (Hasan DARAMY 80′), Anthony COLOSIMO, Joseph KONYIT, Ben SUREY, Shayan ALINEJAD, Sam TORRENS (Ryan FLIPOVIC 45′) Unused Subs: Bobby VIDANOSKI, Matthew HRASTOV Goals: Fraser (37′) J.Colosio (51′) Daramy (83′) Zilic (92′) Yellow Cards: Uskok (84′)
Dandenong Thunder: Zaim ZENELI, Andrew MULLET, Faisal SAFA, Anthony BRAN, Steven TOPALOVIC, Mathew THEODORE (Liam Kearney 60′), Iqbal JAWADI, Shane REXHEPI, Nick EPIFANO (Shpetim MALA 72′), Nathaniel FOSTER, Luke HOPPER (Zac WALKER 36′) Unused Subs: Feston AZIZI, Duncan SHORT. Goals: Bran (5′), Safa (26′) Mala (81′) Yellow Cards: Jawadi (69′)