Melbourne Knights claimed the inaugural Victorian Friendship Cup and continued their unbeaten start to the season with a clinical 4-1 away win against Richmond at Kevin Bartlett Reserve on Friday night.
While both clubs were determined to honour their 60th anniversaries with a victory, it was Richmond who were left to rue a calamity of errors in defence and a saved penalty at a crucial moment against a ruthless Knights outfit.
Down 2-0 at halftime, Richmond coach Jean-Marc Imbert used all three substitutions before the 60th minute, a gamble which was vindicated when substitute Peter Sawan’s free kick was headed in by another substitute – Joshua Kweifio-Okai – in the 62nd minute.
With the momentum firmly in their favour, Richmond looked to have an equaliser marked down when Hamlet Armenian was brought down in the box by Knights defender Ryan Filipovic and awarded the penalty in the 65th minute.
But in what was a flash of deja vu for the home side, Armenian’s penalty was saved by keeper Chris May.
As was the case in their 1-0 loss to Bentleigh in Round One, Richmond’s missed penalty came back to haunt them as the Knights soon went on to score two goals in as many minutes to end the contest.
The first in that period came courtesy of Shayan Alinejad, who found himself unmarked on the end of standout performer Marijan Cvitkovic’s switch pass and calmly slotted past ‘keeper Rani Dowisha in the 75th minute.
Somehow Richmond’s defence was congregated in one half of the ground when Cvitkovic switched to Alinejad.
It was a fundamental error.
The second then came thanks to a dreadful Richmond turnover which saw Cvitkovic receive the ball in space and smash home his brace – and his side’s fourth goal – in the 77th minute.
Again, another costly error, but the home side’s fans had come to expect nothing less from a defence which appeared rattled from the kick-off.
In just the second minute, a wayward clearance from Richmond left-back Gideon Sweet found Jacob Colosimo, who caught keeper Dowisha off his line with a trickling, cushioned shot into the bottom right-hand corner.
Richmond steadied and dominated possession for the majority of the first half, but their crosses were easily picked off by Knights central defenders Filipovic and Adam Zilic, making life difficult for young striker Josh Groenewald.
The Knights piled on the pain in the 28th minute when Guinean left winger Abdoulaye ‘Djibril’ Diallo sliced through Richmond’s defence with a brilliant run and centred to an unmarked Cvitkovic who converted.
Richmond responded by switching captain Erhan Karahan from central midfield to left back in a desperate attempt to limit the influence of rampant Knights wingers Diallo and Alinejad.
The move did quell their influence somewhat, but ultimately Richmond couldn’t undo the damage they had created.
The Knights were too slick, too composed and had too much firepower for Richmond’s three-man defence.
And after copping three red cards and a knee injury to a key player in their 1-0 win against Pascoe Vale last week, the Knights players displayed a strong spirit which pleased coach Andrew Marth.
“That (Pascoe Vale win) was a huge morale-boosting win for the team. We dug in deep this week and the players that came in did an exceptional job for us,” Marth said.
“We’ve got a big squad of good players, which is good.”
Marth said his side’s attacking flair had been a standout in their unbeaten start to their season.
“When teams start chasing games, they start opening up at the back,” he said.
“We’ve got some really, really good attacking players. We spoke about Marijan (Cvitkovic), and you’ve got Diallo and Shayan (Alinejad) and Jake’s (Jacob Colosimo) been outstanding thus far, so our attacking flair is really good at the moment.”
Despite being stuck in the starting blocks without a single point in two matches, Richmond captain Erhan Karahan said there was a positive feeling among his teammates.
“As a team I think our preparation has been good. We’ve been good on the training track and there’s a good feeling in the changing rooms,” Karahan said.
“We just need to make sure we take our chances and we don’t give goals away too easily.
“It’s very hard to win a game where you concede four goals. Obviously we’ve got a brand new team. The boys are still gelling and I’ve got no doubt it will all come together in the coming weeks.
Richmond face a daunting task away to reigning champions Dandenong Thunder next Saturday afternoon, while Melbourne Knights are set for a blockbuster clash away to another undefeated side – Northcote City – on Sunday afternoon.
Melbourne Knights: Formation 4-4-1-1. Christopher MAY, Ryan FILIPOVIC (Bobby VIDANOVSKI 70’), Adam ZILIC (c), Joseph KONYIT, Anthony COLOSIMO, David KUSTURA, Thomas FRASER, Marijan CVITKOVIC, Abdoulaye DIALLO, Shayan ALINEJAD, Jacob COLOSIMO (Abu KONTEK 89’). Unused subs: Christopher TALAJIC, Antonio IVANISEVIC, Paul MONACO.
Yellow cards: Filipovic (65’).
Red cards: None
Richmond: Formation 3-4-3. Rani DOWISHA, Gideon SWEET (Peter SAWAN 45’), Petar FRANJIC, Haris VRBOVAC, Ariel RITZ (Joshua KWEIFIO-OKAI 58’), Erhan KARAHAN (c), Tim PURCELL, Didier IMBERT (Enes SIVIC 45’), Mate ETEROVIC, Hamlet ARMENIAN, Joshua GROENEWALD. Unused subs: Kliment TASESKI, Oscar VONK.
Yellow cards: None
Red card: None