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Mirabella Cup: Knights prevail over valiant Cobram

Cobram Victory’s courageous cup run was brought an end, courtesy of a 2-1 victory to the Melbourne Knights. Given the Knights’ status within the Victorian football community, their slender victory was closer than many expected. A brace from Kayne Vincent was enough to cement the Knights into the last six of the competition.

Cobram Victory has received an enormous amount of media attention throughout Victoria, and notably around Australia. They had the privilege of facing prominent force Melbourne Knights, a former NSL participant who has boasted former Socceroos in the vein of Mark Viduka. Victories against Whittlesea Zebras (State 1) and FC Clifton Hill (State 2) allowed this affair to come about.

Meanwhile, the Melbourne Knights have had a tenuous campaign in the VPL thus far focusing mainly on staving off relegation rather than fighting for a finals spot. When playing against an underdog who has won over public support, the situation isn’t always the easiest assignment to accomplish.

In typical fashion, the dark horse, in Cobram commenced proceedings in a buoyant manner, eager to make their presence felt on the big stage. The Victory players attempted to apply early pressure on the Knights, not letting their opposition have any time on the ball.

However after the opening minutes, the Knights began to find their feet, retaining possession, building from the back and creating space for their forwards to run on to.

The Knights missed their first decent opportunity in the 23rd minute. A Josip Kozic corner from the right found an unmarked Shaun Romein, whose misguided header went wide of the left hand post.

The Knights continued to pressure Cobram’s goal and were once again scathingly close when Jacob Colosimo’s pulsating shot whispered past the right hand post from 25 yards out.

It seemed as though it was only a matter of time before Cobram’s defence would cave in to the Knights’ attacking foray. Romein almost got his name on the scoresheet yet again, this time through a free-kick which barely missed the top left corner of the net.

However, it wasn’t much longer before the Knights’ faithful could sing their praises. Joseph Franjic collected the ball on the left wing and delivered a lovely flighted cross towards the far post. The subsequent ball found the unmarked Vincent who had no troubles in heading the ball into the back of the net.

Following the goal in the 35th minute, the Knights continued to force their way on the Cobram goal. They were faster to the ball, able to retain possession for lengthy periods and evidently had a superior vein of awareness in contrast to their opposition.

However, Cobram defended robustly and denied the Knights a further advantage leading into the half time interval. As Cobram withstood the Knight’s onslaught, they went into the main break trailing 1-0.

The second half commenced in similar fashion to how the opening period ended, with the Knights applying vigorous pressure on the Cobram defence. The heroics of Victory’s keeper Kile Kennedy saved Cobram’s blushes. A stinging strike from Vincent brought about and acrobatic save at the near post to keep the tie at only a one goal margin.

Cobram were seemingly on the back foot, with few answers to the Knights’ potent attack. On several occasions Victory had little choice but to put bodies behind the ball and play on the counter. This gave Cobram few options up front with the lone forward often isolated amid little support. Long, hopeful balls were utilised to play on the counter, however little success came about for Cobram.

The game began to showcase a sense of animation and fervour amongst the respective teams with late challenges and often retaliation from both sets of players. Supporters voiced their opinions in a passionate manner as the game typified a classic cup encounter.

The Knights were given some breathing space in the 70th minute, doubling their advantage with a nicely worked goal. Substitute Yusuf found space on the right wing and worked his way towards the edge of the box, he cut the ball back in to find Vincent free at the near post to tuck the ball into the goal.

With a two goal lead to the Knights, Cobram attempted to claw their way back into the contest. Victory lifted their tempo, applied greater numbers forward and had a greater sense of urgency, trying desperately to get a goal back.

The game was turned on its head in the 83rd minute when Matthew Gray sprinkled some Cobram magic into the Knights’ heartland. A free kick on the left side of the box was powered into the goal at the near post. The goal sent the vocal travelling fans into raptures.

The final minutes of the game exemplified an enormous amount of tension for all involved within the vicinity. Cobram tried desperately to get the equaliser they wholly desired, planting numerous balls into the Knights’ defensive box. Although the Knights withstood Cobram’s charges in the closing minutes and ultimately triumphed 2-1.

Melbourne Knights will now move into the Quarter-Finals Series, where a modified fixture will see a round-robin sequence take place. The Knights have been placed in Pool B where they will face VPL affiliates Green Gully Cavaliers and Hume City. The top two teams will consequently progress to the Semi-Finals stage.

Goals:
Melbourne Knights: Kayne Vincent (35’, 70’)
Cobram Victory: Matthew Gray (83’)

By Robert Di Fabio

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