Heidelberg United have beaten the Melbourne Knights for the third time this calendar year, coming from a goal down to win 2-1 at Olympic Village on Sunday.
After cancelling out Adam Zilic’s second minute opener, Saso Alexovski scored another minutes into the second stanza, as Heidelberg maintained shape and concentration for the rest of the 90, to mathematically remain a chance to stay up.
“You’ve got to be proud of the boys to come back from a goal down. We’ve got a lot of ability, and have been stiff in the five weeks that I’ve been here, because we’ve played some good football,” Heidelberg coach George Katsakis said.
“Whilst it’s still mathematically possible, I’ve said to the boys to just have belief and take it week by week. When it’s time to concede, we’ll put our hands up but until that stage, although we’re focusing on the cup, we’ll keep going.”
Not for the first occasion during their time in the VPL, the Knights opened the scoring early, through captain Adam Zilic on the Knights’ first possession.
Heidelberg’s defence were punished for their non-existent marking right away, as Joseph Franjic’s corner was flicked on by Ben Surey, and onto Zilic who converted with aplomb.
Heidelberg looked to respond, with Kamal Ibrahim in particular causing Craig Sweeney all kinds of trouble, and on nine minutes the home side equalised.
Knights keeper Aaron Romein may have been deceived by the bounce on a terrible Olympic Village pitch, but Saso Alexovski nevertheless made his free kick from 25 metres count, intentionally dipping over the wall and bouncing the ball into the net for what was a fantastic strike.
What ensued was an end-to-end first half, with opportunities falling to both sides.
If not for Anthony Colosimo’s good recovery in the 11th minute, Devon Bonne could have punished Adam Zilic for critically losing the ball as the last man, but the Knights’ left back did very well to get across and thwart the danger.
The pace of both Kayne Vincent and Jake Nakic caused headaches for the Heidelberg defence, who were continually caught square, as Vincent in particular missed two one-on-ones that really should have been put away.
At the other end, Kristian Sarkies had the best chance for Bergers on 26 minutes, swivelling around Ben Surey before unleashing from almost 30.
Romein was up to the task, however, and kept his side in it with a fine full-stretch save.
Going into the break at 1-1, there was no doubt there would be more goals in the match, and Alexovski delivered within the 47th minute, scoring his second of the afternoon.
Evading his defender with a skilful first touch, the diminutive attacker finished confidently cutting in from the right, drilling low at Romein’s near-post to put Heidelberg into the lead.
Chances for the Knights, who were chasing the game in the form of Chris Talajic and Brandon Zezovski’s additions, were scarce as Heidelberg, who were content to sit back and try to hit on the counter, held their defensive nerve for a handy three points.
Despite the loss, Knights coach Andrew Marth believes that with a result next week against rivals South Melbourne, his side still remains in contention for a finals berth.
“Going up 1-0 and then conceding a soft goal – I don’t know if it was the wall or the bounce – was tough, and to my calculations it should have been 3-1. It’s the name of the game, scoring goals, and we didn’t do that,” Marth said post-match.
“I think it’s still there for us to make the finals, but first of all we need to start winning. We’ve lost three in a row now, which is hugely disappointing for the team and the club, so we look forward to South next week.”
Heidelberg meanwhile, will still need a minor miracle to stave off relegation, as next Saturday they travel to George Andrews Reserve, to take on league-leading Dandenong Thunder.
Heidelberg United: 1. Chris MAY, 19. Ollie ROWLAND, 5. James RICCOBENE, 8. Zane SOLE, 9. Kristian SARKIES, 12. Kamal IBRAHIM (19. Matt TANCEVSKI 76’), 18. Devon BONNE (2. Arthur PAPADOPOULOS 67’), 4. John LAZARIDIS, 20. Saso ALEXOVSKI (6. John BOUNIS 85’), 17. Courail NASSIM, 13. Ryan DAVIDSON
Goals: Saso Alexovski 9’, 47’
Melbourne Knights: 1. Aaron ROMEIN, 2. Adam NAKIC, 4. Adam ZILIC, 8. Craig SWEENEY, 10. Kayne VINCENT, 11. Anthony COLOSIMO, 12. Shayan ALINEJAD, 16. Marijan CVITKOVIC, 17. Joseph FRANJIC (18. Brandon ZEZOVSKI 76’), 23. Jake NAKIC (22. Chris TALAJIC 68’), 24. Ben SUREY
Goals: Adam Zilic 2’
Cards: Craig Sweeney 20’