Former Gold Medallist Marijan Cvitkovic struck two goals late in each half to secure Melbourne Knights a vital 2-0 victory over Port Melbourne, and more importantly qualification into the National Stage of the FFA Cup.
Following a disappointing loss on the weekend, Andrew Marth made three changes to his starting XI, with goalkeeper Fraser Chalmers and Ivan Grgic recalled back in to the starting team following lengthy injury layoffs, while Marijan Cvitkovic returned after missing the last fixture due to illness.
Early chances fell to both side in a frantic opening 15 minutes. De Abreu had the first sighter on goal without troubling the goalkeeper, while a David Stirton header from 6 yards out was directed straight at Chalmers. The best chance fell to Kiwi Jason Hicks. After being perfectly set up inside the 18 yard box, Hicks’ powerful drive drew a top-draw point blank save from Michael Stark.
With early nerves settling, both sides employed a defensive structure with the intent of not conceding any soft goals.
It would take a moment of individual brilliance for the deadlock to be broken. Stipo Andrijasevic received possession just outside the box and turn three defenders inside out before crossing sublimely for Cvitkovic to smash home with a half volley.
The goal came moments before the main break, sending the Knights into the rooms with full confidence, while alternatively leaving Port Melbourne with a tactical re-think.
Former Knight Adrian Zahra was thrust into action as a half time substitute, as the away side signaled its attacking intent.
Erhan Yalaz found himself unmarked at the far post for the visitors, however his effort was easily dealt with by a confident Chalmers in the Knights goal. Minutes later a poor clearance from a corner found its way to Obradovic on the edge of the area, but with a sea of bodies in the way he could only drag his shot wide of the upright.
The Knights looked potent on the counter attack, and had a good opportunity to extent its lead on the hour mark. Hicks and Cvitkovic combined to set up Zadworny unmarked on the far side, however an untimely slip forced the winger to rush his shot wide of the far upright.
A late challenge on Stipo Andrijasevic saw the stand in Captain forced off with injury, however this didn’t hamper the home sides attacking creativity, especially with Marijan Cvitkovic is still on the field.
With the ball deep in the Knights attacking corner, Cvitkovic fooled his opponents into believing he was playing for time, and with a quick turn and fancy footwork beat two opponents and the ‘keeper at the near post to secure the result for the home side.
Qualification completes a pre-season goal for Andrew Marth and his side, with Melbourne Knights now looking forward to the National Stage Draw to be taken place on the 30th of June.
Speaking to Knights Media post game, midfielder James McGarry spoke about the teams form turnaround, team structure and FFA Cup qualification.
“After the weekend we had, this was the way we had to respond really. We knew we had to work a lot harder tonight and we showed that we can do that”
“There was a bit of a different structure approach to this game which we worked on during the week, and it makes a massive difference with Marijan coming back into the side, his two goals were absolute quality tonight”
“Really looking forward to entering the national stage, this will be my first time and it was a clear goal set out by the team at the start of the season. Not sure if we want an A-League club straight up or another state side, but if I could choose it would probably be Melbourne Victory at home”.
SHOTS: MK 11 PM 6
TARGET: MK 7 PM 2
CORNERS: MK 7 PM 2
Melbourne Knights Squad: 20.Fraser CHALMERS, 2.Ivan GRGIC, 6. Damian MISKULIN, 8.James McGARRY, 9.Jacob COLOSIMO, 10.Marijan CVITKOVIC (15.Julius DAVIES 85’), 16.Jason HICKS, 17. Robbie ZADWORMY(2.Luke JURCIC 73’), 19.Nick GLAVAN, 21.Stipo ANDRIJASEVIC (11.Nikola JURKOVIC 52’), 23.Timmy PURCELL.
Not Used: 1.Michael O’FARRELL, 14.Caleb MIKULIC
Goals. Marijan CVITKOVIC 44’, 83’.
Port Melbourne Squad: 1.Michael STARK, 3.James RICCOBENE, 7.Jamie DE ABREU, 8.Bonel OBRADOVIC (12.Alec GOODWIN 80’), 10.David STIRTON, 16.Alan KEARNEY (4.JAMES KARVELIS 93’), 17.Erhan YALAZ, 19.Shaun KELLY, 20.Tyler JAMES, 22.Ryan OPPERMAN (9.Adrian ZAHRA 46’), 23.Jacob ELIOPOULOS.
Not Used: 15.James KOPURANOVSKI, 2.Andrew VIOLA.