IF EVER there was a day that Melbourne Knights needed Mark Viduka, it was yesterday.
The Knights squandered many chances that Viduka would have nailed as they went down 1-0 to Adelaide Sharks at Knights Stadium last night.
The defeat might have blown the club’s chance of making the top six this season.
The Knights spent all yesterday morning trying to track down the Socceroo striker to invite him as their special guest, but it may be just as well Viduka failed to turn up.
He would probably have left the ground shaking his head at how his old side could have dominated a game yet got nothing out of it.
The 4000 supporters who braved the wet conditions certainly were left perplexed, as was Knights coach Vid Horvat.
“It’s the first time I can say that I’m really disappointed with a result and I’m tempted to ask why God doesn’t like us,” Horvat said.
“I can’t complain about the players. They gave their maximum, but in life sometimes you need a bit of luck.”
Adelaide Sharks, perennially among the worst travellers in the competition, scored in the 33rd minute when Hamilton Thorp rose to head home Alex Castro’s centre from the right.
The goal shook the Knights out of their lethargy and from then on they laid siege to the Sharks’ goal.
The first sign it was not going to be the Knights’ day came two minutes before halftime when Tom Pondeljak cleverly shot over goalkeeper Nathan Wildy from outside the box only to be denied when the ball bounced off the post.
Ransford Banini was next. He would have become an instant contender for goal of the year if his spectacular overhead kick hadn’t been cleared off the line by Richie Alagich after it had beaten Wildy all ends up.
From then on, the Sharks’ goal was bombarded with Paul Souris making a second goalline clearance, this time from a Harry Karl shot.
It wasn’t all luck as Wildy rose to the occasion, making a number of fine stops, the most notable a flying save from a Pondeljak piledriver in the 68th minute.
Horvat even tried a change of strikers in a desperate bid to change the game, but in the end the Sharks held out and collected an away win after losses to Sydney Olympic, South Melbourne and Perth on the road.
As if to rub salt into the wounds, Sharks coach Manfred Schaefer wasn’t the least bit apologetic.
“We’ve outplayed Perth and Sydney Olympic in away games and come away with nothing, so for me this was a better way to win,” Schaefer said.
“We needed the three points and it didn’t matter how we got them.
“In all my coaching career, I can honestly say that I’ve had the best ever start playing-wise, but not points-wise. If you don’t get the three points, nobody remembers how you played.”
Both Schaefer and Horvat wanted to win the match to dedicate it to Socceroo great Jim Mackay, who died on Friday from a heart attack.
Horvat was Mackay’s teammate at Melbourne Croatia in the 1970s while Schaefer was in the Socceroo team with Mackay that made the 1974 World Cup finals.
“He was years ahead of his time as a midfielder. It’s a real shock that he died. It’s very sad,” Schaefer said.
14 DEC 1998