The Melbourne Knights picked up their first points of the 2012 VPL season at Epping Stadium on Sunday afternoon, comfortably winning away to Moreland Zebras 3-0.
Goals from Josip Kozi?, Louis Fenton and Yusuf Yusuf in the second half helped the Knights bounce back from their disappointing Round One loss to Hume and claim their first win for this campaign.
Despite dominating the match, the visitors were no doubt helped by Moreland defender Ersin Kaya’s send off early in the second stanza, but Knights coach Paul Magdi? was confident his side would have taken the three points at any rate given the clean sheet.
“I felt it took us 20 minutes to wake up and start playing our natural game. I was hoping we would go up one or two before the break. Overall the scoreline, regardless of how it happened, was fair so I’m more than happy with the three points,” Magdi? said post-match.
“The circumstances of the first goal…we scored through a penalty but like I said we should have been up by the stage of the game.
“My only concern was after all that hard work, that we were going to concede on the other end but fortunately enough for us, it panned out really well today.
“The penalty changed the momentum of the game but I felt we had the better of it before that.
The Knights had the bulk of possession but it was Moreland who had the more qualitative of chances early on.
Sixteen minutes in, a half-chance fell to Tomislav Uskok after sustained pressure, but a minute later Steven Weir broke through after a quickly taken Moreland free kick.
Goalkeeper Aaron Romein proved how important he will be to the Knights this year, standing tall once again in the one-on-one situation with a quick reflex save.
Interplay on the left wing between Jacob and Anthony Colosimo created an opening for the latter in the 29th minute, but the left back failed to get his shot on target in what was until that point the Knights’ best chance.
Craig Sweeney had another prime chance for the visitors moments later, but it was again off target, as the Knights started to assert themselves in midfield through Marijan Cvitkovi? and debutant David Kustura.
Kustura though, looked lucky not to be sent off with the intermission approaching, as he looked to have upended Stuart Nicholson as the last man during a Moreland counter attack.
Going into half time the Knights were the better side, but their inability to capitalise with a goal lingered over the flow of the match.
They were given a break in the first fifteen minutes of the second however, with a decision that effectively changed the game.
Ersin Kaya was sent off for tackling Jacob Colosimo from behind as the last man, but it was questionable as to whether Colosimo was actually in the penalty area at the time of the collision.
Despite the dubious circumstances under which the goal fell, the Knights found the deserved breakthrough in the 58th minute, with captain Josip Kozic putting away the penalty.
Confidence flowed through the Knights’ ranks with the goal and numerical advantage, and after several chances they eventually doubled the margin in the 79th minute.
Space opened up on the left wing for Kustura who released Jacob Colosimo with a well weighted through ball.
Colosimo’s first time shot was well saved by Griffin McMaster, but the rebound fell to Yusuf Yusuf, who doubled the Knights’ advantage with aplomb.
Substitute Jake Naki? should have made it three with his first touch of the game as the defence was opened up in the 84th minute, but he struggled to get a hold of Jacob Colosimo’s driven cross.
Three great stops in a minute from McMaster delayed the scoreline from getting embarrassing for the Zebras, but Louis Fenton eventually made it three in stoppage time.
Jacob Colosimo cut it back to Fenton on the counter to seal the victory, much to his coach’s delight, especially with Anthony Colosimo coming back to plug a sizeable defensive hole at left back and allowing for players like Cvitkovi? to move further up the park.
“Anthony’s a quality player. He won our best and fairest last year, and it’s great to have him back. It gives me more choices up front and in the midfield. I’ve got a good blend here so I can turn to a lot of players, so that’s a positive sign.
As well as Anthony Colosimo making a much-needed return to the side to allow Marijan Cvitkovi? into the midfield, Jake Naki? is still being eased into the senior set-up with two straight substitute appearances.
Along with Joseph Franji?, Naki? is coming back from a lengthy injury layoff, and Magdi? is under no pressure to rush him into the squad.
“Like I said, we’ve got a couple of players we can throw into the mix. Jake has had a while out with injury, and it’s one of those situations where we sort of just blend him in, and familiarise him with the rest of the squad because he’s a new player.
“He showed great signs, and he could have scored two in the last ten minutes.”
Captain Josip Kozi? was relieved the side was able to get the three points in a round where most of last week’s losers were able to get off the mark.
Sunday’s win was imperative, so that the Knights weren’t immediately playing catch up, but Kozi? was also pleased in the manner of the victory.
“It was good after playing last week and not getting a result at home after all the expectation. Looking at all the young boys in the squad, it was good to come back and get a win to give us a bit of a boost for after Easter.”
“We knew it was only a matter of time. We probably had the better of it in the first half and we knew we had to lift our intensity in the second half,” he said.
“We did exactly that and with the penalty those things happen, but at the end of the day we looked more mature as a team and that was what brought us the result today.”
Next weekend sees no games played due to the Easter break, meaning the Knights will travel to face a rampant Dandenong Thunder, who have a goal difference of +6 after two games.