A wonderfully improvised strike from Marijan Cvitkovic was all Melbourne Knights had to savour from a disappointing 3-1 loss away to Bentleigh Greens on Friday night.
Fresh off their loss against South Melbourne, in which they missed two penalties, the Greens looked revitalised, and dominated for a large period of the match.
Knights began unchanged from the Club’s victory against Hume City at home, with Stipo Andrijasevic leading the line, and Jacob Colosimo and Cvitkovic in tow.
An early yellow card to Ben Surey had the former skipper skating on thin-ice for most of the match – a task that proved to be a difficult one, with the defensive midfielder receiving his marching orders later on for a second bookable offence.
Bentleigh suffocated the supply to Knights’ front-men, who were forced to play on the counter attack against the well-drilled home side.
With the loss against South Melbourne still present in their memories, Bentleigh should have taken the lead within the opening ten minutes. If it weren’t for the feet of Fraser Chalmers, not once, but twice saving what looked to be an inevitable early goal.
Chalmers was again alert to deny Ryan Paczkowski moments later, as the corner tally began to build.
Two successive corners were close calls for Chalmers and his astute back four, as a set-piece of our own nearly undid the Greens.
Captain Milan Batur headed Jason Hicks’ corner onto the crossbar in our best chance for a goal in the first half, and had it gone in, could have changed the narrative of the match dramatically.
From set-pieces, Bentleigh were deadly. Knights failed to cope with the aerial threat of Wayne Wallace and were punished only minutes after nearly scoring ourselves.
Wallace rose highest to flick on, and into the net past a diving Chalmers.
The Knights shot-stopper was busy, saving from Kamal Ibrahim before the break.
Bentleigh had their second 11 minutes after the re-start, with Wayne Wallace grabbing a brace by smashing an effort in from close range.
Five minutes later, a surging run and assist from Stipo Andrijasevic found Cvitkovic’s heel, a shining light in an otherwise damning fixture – a stunning finish from the Number 10, channelling his inner kung-fu-fighter with a spinning back-heel in mid-air.
The joy was short lived as Ben Surey was given his marching orders after holding back a Bentleigh attack illegaly, and in their next move a third was added by substitute Matt Thurtell.
Thurtell’s goal, and Bentleigh’s third, a case of de ja vu. A header from a corner.
Yellow cards would fall to Caleb Mikulic and Nikola Jurkovic as tempers reached boiling points – but it would be the disciplined Bentleigh Greens who would emerge triumphant after a commanding performance at Kingston Heath Reserve.
Goalscorer Marijan Cvitkovic spoke to Knights Media post game:
“There are always positives to take out of the game. In the second half we come out with more composure, we got the goal we needed, but unfortunately with the red card it made it difficult for us to come away with a point or even three,” he said.
“We worked on defending corners during the week and it’s obviously disappointing to not just concede 1 from a corner, but all three. It’s a bit disheartening, but as long we learn from our errors though out the season we’ll be ok.”
Cvitkovic’s goal will be a talking point, for his ingenuity and ability to turn-in Stipo’s assist, which was arrowed in towards the striker at pace.
“It was more of a reaction. Stipo put in a good a ball, and I just had to contort my body, luckily it went in, and I’ll take it.”
We now face Oakleigh Cannons at home next Friday, where we will face them twice within three days due to our FFA Cup fixture.
“It’s not common to play the same opponent back to back, but fortunately we are back at home next week, where we have a really good record. Hopefully we can take all three points,” said Cvitkovic.