A goal from South Melbourne captain Brad Norton on Friday night has propelled his side to an upset win in one of the most anticipated clashes between South and Melbourne Knights in years; his side claimed a 1-0 in an entertaining “OG Melbourne Derby.”
In the midst of one of their best starts to an NPL Victoria campaign in years, the up and about Knights had put significant effort into promoting the game around Melbourne with both a strong social media push and posters erected around the city.
Their mood – which was soured significantly by the end of the night – was originally almost spoiled less than 60 seconds into the contest when South Melbourne’s Gerrie Sylaidos found himself with enough room in a central position outside the area to tee up a shot that flashed just wide of the post.
After both sides established that it was indeed a derby after laying a number of physical – but not nasty – challenges on each other, it was the Knights that next produced a clear chance on goal when midfielder Luke Duzel found himself on the ball in the tenth minute.
Producing a sublime bit of skill to ride and dance around a series of challenges from the South Melbourne defence, the 22-year-old was able to switch play and find Corey Sewell on the left wing with enough time to lace a ball onto the head of Marijan Cvitkovic inside the penalty area.
Unfortunately for Knights fans, Cvitkovic was unable to get his resulting header on target under heavy pressure from the South defence.
Brought down by Knights keeper Hrvoje Cakarun, Sylaidos next earned South a free kick just outside the penalty area that was promptly cleared in the 13th minute, before Knights promptly marched up the other end and created another chance for Cvitkovic; although this one went further wide under more intense South pressure.
Neither side could claim to have truly stamped their authority on the contest as it approached the half an hour mark but, with a mostly Knights based crowd of around 2000 people behind them, Knights began to slowly exert more and more control over the game as time progressed; Gian Albano having an effort parried away by Nikola Roganovic in the 30th minute.
South was by no means out of the encounter, however, and almost had the lead in the 32nd minute when Marcus Schroen sprung Nicholas Krousoratis in behind the Knights defence with a well-placed ball over the top.
Collecting the ball in stride, Krousoratis proceeded to cut inside the penalty area and let loose with a venomous shot that seemed destined for the top corner of the net only for Cakarun to produce a magnificent, diving save to tip the ball out for a corner.
Collecting themselves, the Knights next clear chance came in the 40th minute when Cvitkovic was played through and had a shot charged down by Roganovic.
Pouncing on the loose ball, Hamish Watson turned toward goal and let fire with a shot of his own that, although it appeared to be heading toward the wrong side of the far post, the South defence took no chances with and cleared from inside the six-yard box.
A howl then went up in the aftermath of the chances as Knights players, coaches and fans alike loudly appealed for a handball from the South defence as they cleared, only for referee Lazaros Pantelidis to ignore them.
So vociferous was Knights coach Micky Colina in his calls for a penalty he earned a yellow card for dissent in the wake of the incident.
The Knights would create two further late chances to steal a lead into heading into halftime, even forcing Roganovic into an acrobatic leap to palm away a ball looping toward the top corner of the net, but the game nonetheless remained tied at the conclusion of the opening stanza.
Unfortunately for the Knights, that late flourish didn’t continue past the interval; with both sides crashing against each other in a back and forth manner when the second half resumed.
Just a minute before the hour mark, South then made them rue their missed opportunities.
Intercepting a wayward pass forward from the hosts, South defender Brad Norton took advantage his opponents being stretched in transition to steam up the left touchline and knock a ball into space for the newly introduced Leigh Minopoulos.
Observing that Norton had continued his run, Minopoulos laced a ball behind the Knights’ defence and into the path of his captain to collect and, despite coming under intense pressure from Sewell, poke past Cakarun to give South the lead.
Making the choice by new South Head Coach Esteban Quintas to introduce him look like an inspired one, Minopoulos had a chance to make it 2-0 just minutes later when he broke down the right flank and, shooting from an acute angle, cannoned an effort off the joint of the crossbar and goalpost.
Attempting to force their way back into the contest the Knights would maneuver their way through the South defence and break through on goal through Albano in the 66th minute.
Despite receiving what looked to be a clear push from the South defence just inside the area the Knights’ attacker refused to go down as he moved forward.
However, perhaps he should have as his resulting shot trickled wide of Roganovic’s goal.
Minopoulos would once again create a chance down his right flank in the 82nd minute when he was played in on goal – only to blast over the bar – and the Knights would respond seconds later when Cvitkovic had a dangerous looking shot from range take a deflection wide.
Ultimately, Knights proved unable to finish the second half as strongly as they had done the first: South departing Somers Street with three points after a much improved second half.
Knights: 1. Hrvoje Cakarun (GK), 7. Gian Albano, 5. Ayden Bryce, 10. Marijan Cvitkovic (c), 19. Anthony Duzel, 27. Joseph Franjic, 13. Ivan Grgic (Tardio 82′), 11. Nikola Jurkovic, 12. Corey Sewell, 17. Daniel Visevic (Ofli 35’), 9. Hamish Watson (Inia 59′)
Subs: 20. Jordan Gifkins, 14. AJ Inia, 25. Atilla Ofli, 3. Tom Podiaris, 15. Adrian Tardio
South: 1. Nikola Roganovic (GK), 4. Luke Adams, 8. Dean Bereveskos (Marafioti 73′), 15. Ben Djiba (Lambropoulos 76′), 17. Ethan Gage, 12. Nicholas Krousoratis (Minopoulos 57′), 5. Jake Marshall, 11. Brad Norton (c), 10. Marcus Schroen, 18. Konstantinos Stratomitros, 45. Gerrie Sylaidos
Subs: 23. Amir Jashari, 3. Kristian Konstantinidis, 2. Perry Lambropoulos, 13. Giordano Marafioti, 27. Leigh Minopoulos
HEADER IMAGE: South Melbourne Football Club/ Cindy Nitsos