Knights denied by Zois heroics

The Melbourne Knights have lost 3-0 against old National League rival South Melbourne at John Cain reserve in a match that could be described as absolutely luckless for the Knights.
The match started off slowly in windswept and rainy conditions, with both sides trying their best to play an attractive style of passing football, albeit with the Knights having the upper hand in the first half hour.
The Knights welcomed back Ivica Praiz into the first eleven after Bryan Bran sustained an injury at training during the week. Ben Surey slotted into his left back position with the duo of Praiz and Tiatto left to tussle for ascendancy in the midfield.
Jean Dubois earnt his side a free kick in the 19th minute after some good work against a solid South Melbourne back four.
Kevin Townson stepped up to take the free kick, only to see his ball curl around the wall and bounce favourably just before Zois who gleefully caught the ball dispelling the danger. It was a sign of things to come for the Knights as Zois put in a man of the match performance.
The Knights continued to pressure South’s back four after Ryan Filipovic made a great run down the right hand side releasing the pacy Adrian Zahra who’s low cross from behind the defense found Jean Dubois who flicked the ball into the direction of goal only for Zois to deny the opener once again, this time making a fingertip save at his far post for the ball to go out for a corner.
South Melbourne would have been counting their lucky stars after taking the lead at the windup of the first half. A somewhat fortunate strike from Gianni De Nittis, a former Knights youth teamer in the national league gave the boys in blue the lead after the out of sorts striker struck the ball first time with the outside of his boot toward goals from 35 meters out, while Knights keeper Sebastian Mattei attempted to parry over the bar only to see the watersoaked ball trickle over the line to give South Melbourne the lead, absolutely against the run of play with five minutes to the interval.
The half ended in a fizzle after the first goal with the Knights continuing to press to find the goal the side so desperately needed.
The second half started much like the first with both sides keeping their shape and possession, attempting to try and exploit the counter attack.
In the 65th minute, Jean Dubois had a superb effort parried wide by an outstretched Zois once again. This time the plucky Frenchman beat three players to get his powerful drive off into the bottom left hand corner. The Knights were denied once again.
Two minutes later the Knights almost had their much sought after equaliser after Danny Tiatto’s free kick from the center of the park found the head of Dubois who flicked the ball into the path of Ryan Filipovic after Peter Zois’ glove pushed the goal bound ball away, only for Eddie Cetkin to clear off the line after the ball dribbled off the post and along the line.
A minute later Kevin Townson had his shot scooped away by Zois after the Englishman beat his marker and shot on the turn with the ball curling into the goal. It seemed as though the Knights’ luck had run out.
The Knights were becoming desperate for the equaliser only for De Nittis to double South’s lead in the 76th from a Joe Keenan corner. The centre forward got in front of his marker to deftly flick past Seb Mattei at the front post. South had doubled their lead and the Knights had a mountain to climb to salvage something out of the game.
Knights coach Ivan Duzel made two substitutions in quick succession, bringing on strikers Jacob Colosimo and the returning from injury Tommy Ples, while Ivica Praiz and Josip Magdic came off.
The Knights continued to press for something out of the game and opened up at the back, with South crushing the hopes of the western suburbs based club with a goal in the 87th minute to Marinos Gasparis who tapped in from a Keenan cross on the left side.
The Knights, to their credit, didn’t stop to the final whistle but their effort was not enough after being denied on too many occassions from a stellar Peter Zois in the South Melbourne goal.
The Knights find themselves in extremely dangerous territory now after Altona Magic won their game over the weekend against Heidelberg, meaning next week’s clash against Altona is a true relegation six pointer.
Both sides are on equal points with Altona having a superior goal difference meaning that the Knights currently sit in 11th position, a relegation spot – a massive thing considering that the club has never been relegated on footballing merits since its formation as Croatia SC in 1953.
The Knights take on Altona next Sunday at 3pm – and they need you! All of your support for this club and what it stands for is needed if we are to come out of this crisis together.
Knights coach Ivan Duzel summed it up after the game, “We must forget about this game and get it out of our heads, next is Altona which we must win. I’m calling on all fans of Melbourne Croatia (Knights) to come out in big numbers next Sunday against Altona, we need all the yelling, singing and support from the stands we can get to get us out of this position. I believe we can do it together because this club is bigger than me and you – its impact stretches to far greater places than what people can see or hear. I am doing my best, the players are putting the effort in and together – we will win!”

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