After a positive string of wins over the last month, the Knights returned to the road for the return leg of the original Melbourne Derby at Lakeside Stadium. South Melbourne’s home has always been a fort when it comes to away games played by the Knights and Sundays fixture was no different as the Knights disappointingly fell to a battling South Melbourne 5-1 by the end of regulation time.
The Knights starting line-up has been arguably stronger in previous weeks, with several key players missing out on the match. For the Knights, Andelo Svalina, Teeboy Kamara, Kym Harris and Anthony Dezic were all absent from the starting line-up, which also saw Adrian Tardio and Marcelo De la Plaza Sanchez get a call up from the reserves side.
— Melbourne Knights FC (@MelbKnights) July 8, 2018
The Knights were able to take the win against South back in round 6, when Hellas travelled to Knights Stadium. Considering this season hasn’t really panned out quite as expected for South Melbourne and despite the Knight’s short comings in selection, a win was on the cards for the Knights who went into the match as likely favourites to win.
The end result couldn’t have been further from the prediction. The Knights came off the starting blocks with ample attack and drive, applying some pressure to Souths defence early in the half thanks to Nate Foster, but Hellas were able to quickly convert in the 9th minute after the home side were awarded a free kick which was put low and straight into goal by Marcus Schroen.
Souths advantage would only continue to grow despite a number of chances falling for the Knights. Instrumental in these chances was on-fire youngster AJ Inia who could be seen fearlessly taking on multiple defenders, beating them and either distributing to teammates in a better position or having a shot on goal himself. Inia’s best chance came in the 17th minute, when he was able to magically weave through South’s defence to fire a shot on goal, only for it to travel just a fraction too high over the crossbar.
South were able to go two up after a corner set piece was well placed into the box onto the head of Kristian Konstantinidis and into goal. Five minutes later, the Knights were caught out again as they failed to clear a ball from the 18 yard box, only for it to fall to the feet of South’s Oliver Minatel, who squarely put it behind Harry Cakarun to give South a three goal lead.
Half time couldn’t come quickly for the Knights as they fumbled for answers to South Melbourne’s solid first half performance. After the regroup, the first 20 odd minutes of the second half were largely uneventful, with the Knights continuing to have chances on goal, but not doing quite enough to convert the opportunities.
Around the 70th minute saw a number of substitutions for both sides with AJ Inia and Anthony Duzel being replaced by Milan Batur and newcomer Mitchell Walsh respectively, in an effort to close the porous defence responsible for the 3 goals conceded. However, things only got worse for the Knights as South’s Giuseppe Marafioti was unceremoniously taken out in the penalty box and awarded a spot kick. With only 12 yards between Cakarun and Marafioti, Marafioti placed it low and left to beat a right-diving Cakarun to give Hellas their fourth.
Keeping a clean sheet thus far, The Knights were able to take that away from Hellas at the very least, with a late 88th minute goal thanks to Nate Foster, who capitalised on a confused South defence. However, South quickly answered back in extra time as Marafioti got his second of the night.
It was a thoroughly lethargic performance for the Knights, who needed to continue to collect points on the road in order to stay within the top six. The loss to South sees the Knights drop outside the six, down to seventh position.
Round 20 sees the Knights back at home against league leaders Heidelberg United FC. Whatever the plan is for the coming week, one thing is certain, a performance like this won’t be acceptable if the Knights plan to take anything away from the dominant Bergers.