High flying Knights book spot in semi final

Melbourne Knights history making Australia Cup run continues after the side booked their spot in the Semi Finals with an exhilarating 3-2 come from behind win over Heidelberg United at Knights Stadium on Thursday night.

Despite trailing 2-0 after 27 minutes Ben Cahn’s side fought back thanks to goals from Gian Albano, Anton Kinnander and a 96th minute Mitch Hore winner to secure a Quarter Final victory that means Knights are the only NPL side still standing in the competition.

It was the visitors who took the lead via an Adrian Zahra spot-kick in the 21st minute before Kaine Sheppard doubled the Bergers lead with a header six minutes later.

Undeterred by the two-goal deficit Knights responded immediately and pulled one back just two minutes later when Albano latched onto an intricate Hore pass inside the area and tucked a first-time finish into the bottom corner.

From there Knights kept pushing for an equaliser deep into the second half with their pressure finally taking it’s toll on the visitors, who were reduced to ten men when Anthony Lesiotis received his marching orders for a second bookable offence in the 80th minute.

In the 91st minute Knights final got their reward through substitute Anton Kinnander, who turned home a pinpoint Ivan Franjic cutback with a first-time finish at the back post.

The Knights didn’t rest on their laurels and found a winner in the 96th minute through Hore, who squeezed an effort from the top of the box past Pierce Clark into the bottom corner to cap an incredible comeback in a night that will last long in the memory at Somers Street.

Thursday’s win in front of 2,236 people at Somers Street  was Knights second over Heidelberg this season, ending a run that had seen them fail to defeat the Bergers since 2015.

Knights will be joined in the draw for the Semi Final by Melbourne City as well as the winners of this weekend’s ties between Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers as well as Sydney FC against Western United.

The Semi Final draw will be conducted on Sunday evening and live streamed on 10Play, the Football Australia YouTube channel and Australia Cup Facebook page.

Speaking post-match, Melbourne Knights Head Coach Ben Cahn praised the character shown by his side to seal their passage to the Semi Finals.

“It was an incredible night. It’s difficult to put words to it,” Cahn said.

“From a more analytical point of view, we certainly weren’t at our best. We’re a little disappointed with the performance and some of the details but football and especially big cup games are about so much more than technical and tactical detail.

“The players showed enormous belief and togetherness to come back from two down and win the game in normal time.

“This group of players are special, it was a full squad effort, the players that came into the game at different times made a big impact and allowed us to try to find different ways of scoring.

“The red cad card obviously helped because it removed their counter attacking threat which had caused us problems all night. 

“We were able to commit more players forward and we kept slowly chipping away. Those last few minutes were simply incredible.

“We’ll enjoy the moment for a day or two, recover well, look at detail of the game and where we can improve, because we’ll need to and then we’ll make sure we’re ready to give it everything against whoever we come up against.”

MATCH DETAILS 

Australia Cup 2023 – Quarter Final: Melbourne Knights v Heidelberg United

Knights Stadium, Sunshine North

Thursday, September 14

Melbourne Knights – 3 (Gian ALBANO 29’, Anton KINNANDER 91, Mitch HORE 96’)

Heidelberg United – 2 (Adrian ZAHRA 21’, Kaine SHEPPARD 27’)

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