A youthful and experimental Melbourne Knights side succumbed to a 3-1 defeat to league rivals Avondale FC, in sunny conditions on Saturday morning at Knights Stadium.
In the club’s first game of the pre-season, Andrew Marth gave starting debuts to new signings Cali, Jurkovic, Campelj and Glavan, however it was a familiar name that almost got the home side to the perfect start, with Talajic driving a strike just over the bar in the opening minutes.
For the visitors, Matthew Sanders spurned a one-on-one chance, forcing O’Farrel into a nice save down low.
Despite being a friendly fixture, both teams put on a physical display as players were determined to secure their spots for the coming season. A late challenge by Jurkovic in the box led to a penalty for the visitors with O’Farrel again guessing correctly to foil Sanders. This would be the keepers last action of the game though, as a late challenge forced him off with injury.
Led in the middle of the park by the experienced Jeffrey Fleming and Massimo Murdocca, the visitors began to take a stranglehold on their young counterparts, and in was the former Brisbane Roar and Melbourne City veteran who opened the scoring with a finesse finish into the bottom corner.
Just before the half time break, Avondale doubled their advantage as Riccobenne set up Khrapko who beat a helpless Chalmers in goal.
New goalkeeper Chalmers was kept busy in the early stages of the second half, first denying Berkant from point blank range, before forcing Ammache to shoot wide from a tight angle.
The Knights’ then enjoyed their best patch of the game, as returning striker Jacob Colosimo hit the post with a delicate chip from a tight angle, before Jurkovic made amends for giving away a penalty by winning his own in the 70th minute. The penalty was converted by Colosimo, who thought he gave the home side an equaliser just minutes later, only to be ruled out by a tight offside call.
It wasn’t to be however, as in stoppage time Avondale killed off the contest catching the Knights on the counter, with Khrapko grabbing his second goal following some good set up play by Berkant.
Speaking to Knights Media after the game, new signing Stefan Cali gave his thoughts on his first match in Knights colours.
“It was only my second session of the season, so obviously a bit sore, but it was good to be out there”.
“Avondale are a quality side, the match was very physical, which in SA we would see more fouls and yellow cards, but I like this style of play and to bring this to my game”.
“I’ve played in the left back position for my previous clubs, and that’s where I’m looking to play this season”.
“Stabba told us on Thursday that training was going to be a light session, but it wasn’t a light session at all, so I’m wondering what a heavy session will be like, but it’s good to be in the swing of things now and get settled”
In the under 20s match that followed, the Knights youth drew 3-3 with with their Avondale counterparts.
Melbourne Knights Squad from: Andrijasevic, Batur, Brekalo, Cali, Campelj, Chalmers (GK), Colosimo, Glavan, Grgic, Jayden, Jurcic, Jurkovic, Mikulic, O’Farrel (GK), Sousa, Talajic.
Avondale Squad from: Ammache, Berkant, Cannizzaro, Colaianni, Cuming, Efe, Fleming, Germano, Hodor, Jaratt (GK), Khrapko, Milojevic, Murdocca, Riccobenne, Sanders, Siddall (GK), Strano, Symoey, Towns, Yango.