The annual Friendship Cup took place last Sunday is hot conditions at Sydney United’s home venue of Edenser Park. Two goals in the last ten minutes wasn’t enough for the Knights who succumbed to a 3-2 defeat to the hands of its sister club from Sydney.
Several Knights players missed the trip to ensure they were fully fit in preparation for this Friday’s opening clash, with Ben Surey, James McGarry, Joshua Brekalo, Fraser Chalmers and Chris Talajic the most notable absences.
Making his first appearance for the Knights was new signing Jason Hicks, who has spent time with A-league outfit Wellington Pheniox. The New Zealand capped player almost got a dream start if not for the cross-bar denying him from a free-kick in the 6th minute.
Sydney United 58 immediately punished the Knights at the other end, when Rob Milevski volleyed first time into the bottom corner finishing off a swift counter attack.
The visitors were almost gifted an equaliser in the 16th minute, when a misplaced back pass was picked up by Marijan Cvitkovic clean through on goal. His first attempt was well parried by Depta in goal, however the ball rebounded to the striker only to see his second attempt cleared off the line by veteran defender Eddy Bosnar, who tracked back in a timely manner.
In similar fashion, the home side were quick to punish the Knights and moved into a 2-0 lead on the 27th minute mark. Pani Nikas finished off another flowing move from just inside the box leaving O’Farrell in goals helpless.
Despite the score line, the Knights were playing well in patches with Jason Hicks controlling much of the tempo and setting up attacks with his accurate long range passing.
However the Knights couldn’t have wished for a worse start to the second half, as this time Nikas turned provider for Milevski to tap home from close range on the 50th minute mark.
The visitors could have been forgiven for throwing in the towel being 3-0 down in simmering conditions, but the Knights gave it one last push to salvage something from the game.
Reward for effort finally paid off in the 80th minute as Andrijasevic’s free-kick was emphatically headed home by captain Milan Batur via the underside of the bar.
Less than a minute later, substitute Caleb Mikulic finished off from close range after some good work from Luke Jurcic and all of the sudden the Knights were back in it.
It could have been 3 goals in 4 minutes as Mikulic broke clear of the defence only to be thwarted by Depta in United’s goal. Fans could be forgiven for thinking this was a Grand Final as the Knights threw all numbers forward in the last five minutes and caused two goal mouth scrambles in the final moments but could not bundle the ball over the line.
United held on vigorously to retain the Friendship Cup bragging rights, as Melbourne Knights attention now turns to Green Gully in this Friday’s NPL season opener at Knights Stadium. The game kicks off at 8:30pm.
Sydney United 3 (Milevski 7’, 50’, Nikas 27’) def
Melbourne Knights 2 (Batur 80’, Milulic 81’).
Sydney United Squad: Bertolissio, Bosnar, Depta, Fragialos, Manos, Mileski, Nikas, Payne, Pom, Rizoski, Stavroulakis, Taleski, Triantis, A, Vlismas, K. Vlismas, Vrlic, Yui, Yuichi.
Melbourne Knights Squad: Andrijasevic, Batur, Cakarun, Cali, Colosimo, Cvitkovic, Dezic, Glavan, Grgic, Hicks, Jurcic, Jurkovic, Kataforis, Mikulic, O’Farrell, Purcell.