The Melbourne Knights have kicked off the season in the best possible way – taking all the points away to a fancied Oakleigh side.
The match started with both teams showing attacking intent – however it was Oakleigh who pressed the Knights in the first 15 minutes – the best chance falling to Lujic who’s across-body volley sailed high and wide in the fifth minute. 10 minutes later, Lujic was put through onto goal and lunged for the ball collecting the on-rushing Cakarun in the process. The fallout after some handbags was a yellow card for Lujic’s tackle.
Up the other end of the park, Cvitkovic threatened for the Knights as he received the ball
through some hard work via Albano and struck the crossbar in the 18th minute.
Such was the seesawing nature of the match, Oakleigh basically went up the other end and breached the Knights 18-yard box with Epifano being denied by the safe hands of Cakarun.
It looked like the ball just didn’t want to go for the Knights as they nearly had a goal via a deflected shot, then a near own-goal moment from Oakleigh.
Whilst both sides were fluid in attack, they were also cautious in over-committing and started using the long ball more as the half wore on.
Oakleigh’s new visa signing Joe Guest covered a lot of territory, employed to dictate the play for the Cannons and nearly opened the scoring if not for the confident keeping of Cakarun once again.
Two minutes from the break Nikola Jurkovic was substituted due to injury and was replaced by former Oakleigh defender Tom Podaridis.
The second half began much like the first, except it was the Knights controlling the tempo and putting Oakleigh on the back foot. Burly striker Hamish Watson got himself more involved in the game with the ball at his feet and the Knights midfield looked like they had an extra man in the center of the park.
It took only six minutes from the break for the Knights to draw first blood, with Tom Podaridis finding himself inside the box, it gave the young defender the chance to guide the ball across goal to Watson who smashed home from inside the six yard box.
The Knights continued to pressure the goal but only managed to create half chances. It wasn’t until Chris Taylor substituted makeshift wingback Paczkowski for striker Harry White in the 68th minute that Oakleigh’s fortunes turned. Not nearly a minute later, with the home side sacrificing defensive solidity for an extra man up front did midfielder Joe Guest draw out the Knights defence, able to pass a player and slot home from inside the 18 yard box to restore parity.
Although Oakleigh continued to search for a leading goal, Knights coach Micky Colina made a quick substitution and threw on lively attacker Atilla Ofli for Marijan Cvitkovic a minute after Oakleigh equalized.
As the game ebbed and flowed, both sides exhibited attacking intent and a willingness to go for the three points on offer. Cakarun once again was called upon having to save a stinging shot from White from distance to keep the Knights level.
However, as the game progressed the Knights looked hungrier and better prepared to take home the points and it was ultimately Ofli who saw the space for the overlapping Podaridis in a free flowing counter-attacking move that had the Oakleigh defence on the back foot. Podaridis confidently slipped the ball across goal and behind the defence to the waiting Watson who again finished from close range to give the Knights the lead in the 75th minute.
Lujic gave the Knights fans a scare five minutes from time with a chance to equalise however his shot was parried by Cakarun and the ensuing pressure cleared away from a sturdy Knights defence.
In the dyeing embers of the match, Watson was immense at the top end of the field, shielding the ball for a good two minutes to eat into the five that the fourth official announced would be added.
The Knights were composed in the final moments as Oakleigh tried to overload the midfield but it was too little too late as referee Lachlan Keevers signaled the end of the match.
The Knights now look to next week with the always eagerly anticipated first home game of the year. Altona Magic, regardless of being freshly promoted, is a club with great pedigree at State Level with five state league titles, with one of them coming from a defeat against the Knights in the 2008 Victorian Premier League Grand Final.
Altona née Vardar opened up their account in the NPL in Round 1 on Saturday afternoon against Green Gully, going down by a solitary goal conceded in the 80th minute and will be hungry to make amends quickly. The Knights are looking to win their first two opening games of the season since the 2015 NPL season.
The stage is set for a cracking match at Knights Stadium next Friday night. The club’s merchandise stand is jam packed, the membership team will be ready to go, beers are cold, the clubroom’s will be open early for dinner from 5pm inside and in the beer garden for the match day menu, there is live music organized inside and out – before and after the match – all in anticipation of a bumper crowd of Knights fans.
Get down early on Friday night, bring your friends, kids, parents and grandparents – it’s going to be an event not to be missed.
Oakleigh Cannons 1
Melbourne Knights 2
(Watson 51’, 75’)
Cautions: Oakleigh – Lujic 14′, Govan 63′
Knights – Jurcic 57′, Uskok 81′
Oakleigh Cannons XI: 17. John Honos, 3. Ramazan Tavsancioglou, 5. Blair Govan, 23. Matt Foschini, 8. Ryan Paczkowski, 41. Luke Pavlou, 13. Hamish Millar, 10. Joe Guest, 7. Nick Epifano, 11. Wade Dekker, 99. Milos Lujic
Melbourne Knights XI: 1. Harry Cakarun, 2. Luke Jurcic, 6. Tomislav Uskok, 8. Gian Albano (Ivan Grgic 86′), 9. Hamish Watson, 10. Marijan Cvitkovic (Atilla Ofli 69′), 11. Nikola Jurkovic (4. Tom Podaridis 45’), 12. Corey Sewell, 13. Ayden Brice, 19. Anthony Duzel, 27. Joseph Franjic