Kingz v Knights

Round 5 report by Jeremy Ruane
Football Kingz v Melbourne Knights

The Melbourne Knights scored a come-from-behind 2-1 win at a sun-drenched Ericsson Stadium on October 19, a result which leaves the beaten team, the Football Kingz, without a point to their name after five National Soccer League matches, and something of a mountain to climb as they bid to stay in touch with all-comers.

In a match which had a staggering eleven minutes of injury time added to it, primarily due to a shoulder injury suffered by Kingz striker Paul Harries after he landed awkwardly following an early second half challenge, the home team made the best possible start, opening the scoring in just the fourth minute.

Glen Collins, fresh from his trip to Iran with the All Whites, worked his way down the left to the byline and into the Knightsı penalty area, where the challenge from behind by Isyan Erdogan, while making contact with the ball, proved enough to upend the midfielder.

Referee Con Diomis had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot, from where Harry Ngata fired the ball high beyond the diving Martin John, much to the delight of the 1,271 patrons.

Melbourne sought a swift riposte, with Roddy Vargası free-kick drifting beyond the defence and into the path of Solomon Islandsı international Henry Faıarodo just seconds after the goal. But the striker collided with Kingz goalkeeper Ross Nicholson in his eagerness to bring about parity, an incident which the referee didnıt take kindly to.

Six minutes later, Faıarodo was in the thick of the action again, this time for all the right reasons. A flowing move featuring Andrew Marth, the impressive Anthony Pelikan and the consistent Andrew Vargas culminated in the last-mentioned releasing the dreadlocked striker down the left, with Faıarodoıs fifteen yard volley on the run flying across the face of goal.

Another Knights attack, two minutes later, should never have come about. But the Kingz defence stood off Pelikan as he latched onto Johnıs thrown clearance, and continued to give the striker the freedom of Eriksson Stadium as he charged towards goal. Too late, the natives reacted to the threat, with Pelikan squeezing between two opponents before shooting. The advancing Nicholson thwarted the striker this time round.

While the Kingz enjoyed the better of territory and possession, what they were doing with the ball was ineffective - John had a comfortable afternoon at the office plucking wayward crosses from the air, and was forced to make only one save all day. Meanwhile, the Knightsı probing through ball were testing the Kingz defensive structure, but all too often the visitors undid their own efforts by straying offside, with Faıarodo by far the worst offender.

On the occasions when the flag did stay down, the Kingz defence had Nicholson to thank for bailing them out, as was the case in the 23rd minute, when the goalkeeper raced off his line to clear ahead of the charging Pelikan, after he set off in pursuit of a through ball from debutant Adrian Leijer.

Three minutes later, the visitors were level, with the Kingz having only themselves to blame. A regulation Andrew Vargas corner found veteran midfielder Andrew Marth near the penalty spot, and his unchallenged header bulleted down and towards the target. As the static Kingz defence looked on, the unmarked Pelikan stole in and directed the ball on target to poach the softest of equalisers.

The bottom-placed side looked to restore their early advantage, and seven minutes before half-time, Chris Jackson sent Harries away down the right. The target-man evaded a challenge before turning and delivering the sort of cross which he himself would have relished. Unfortunately for the home team, it arced just beyond fellow front-runner Aleksander Midtsian, and was too far ahead of Ngata for the Kingz leading goalscorer to capitalise upon.

The Knights cleared this threat, and produced the last chance of the half four minutes before its conclusion. Another Vargas corner was cleared to Erdogan, who sent a volley flashing over the top of the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area, a feat he was to repeat in the 74th minute.

Midtsian was responsible for the bulk of the Kingz set-piece initiatives, and a 53rd minute free-kick had Melbourne at sixes and sevens. The visitors survived, and immediately launched a counter-attack which found Pelikan bearing down on goal. Thankfully for the Kingz, Jason Rowley stood his ground well to deny the striker his second goal of the game.

Pelikanıs hard-running tactics were upsetting the Kingz defence, which was hesitant at times, static on others - the fear of making a mistake was clearly evident in their play, and anytime Melbourne had possession and got within thirty yards of goal, the brittle confidence of the home teamıs rearguard was there for all to see.

So when Pelikan set off on another foray, on the hour mark, the alarm bells started ringing once more. The striker made the most of it, cutting in from the right before forcing the ball across to Tomi Razov. His drive was blocked to safety, but four minutes later, Pelikan was on the charge again.

This time, Andrew Vargas released his colleague with a measured pass, and the striker turned Mauro Donoso every which way before engineering some space in the penalty area from which he sent a low cross screaming across the face of goal. Vargas had carried on running after releasing his pass, and the midfielder was barely a yard away from extracting due reward for a rock-solid performance.

Six minutes later, it was the turn of Knightsı substitute Bill Natsioulas to rampage down the right, in pursuit of a ball forward from Leijer. Erdogan raced inside the replacement, and darted into the penalty area on receipt of a lobbed pass from Natsioulas, who had evaded Espen Schjervenıs challenge before doing so. Erdogan steered the ball into Pelikan, but the striker was somehow denied by the presence of Tallan Martin, Harriesı replacement.

The Knightsı despair turned to delight seconds later, however, as the Kingz inability to defend at set-pieces was again exposed. Andrew Vargas fired in another corner, this time to the far post, where Antun Kovacic was on the charge. He headed the ball down and inside to the unmarked Serkan Oksuz, who marked his introduction to the game just seconds earlier by rifling the ball home with his first touch, in the 72nd minute.

Talk about an impact player! For within four minutes, Oksuz was in again, Vargas the supplier of the pass. This time, the Australian Under-17 international bulldozed his way into the penalty area before rattling the crossbar with a thumping drive.

Three minutes on, the same pair combined again, Vargası cross this time picking out Oksuz, who had drifted beyond his marker, Schjerven. Had he been aware of the space he was in, the Knightsı ³Supersub² could well have made more of the opportunity - as it was, he steered a header narrowly wide of the post.

After Nicholson had hurtled out of his penalty area to thwart the dangerous Oksuz once more, the Kingz responded with a tidy move of their own, featuring Jackson, Martin and Mark Beldham. The substitute charged down the right before unleashing a cross which cannoned off a defender, and caused John no end of difficulty, as it spun crazily towards the top near corner.

The Œkeeper scrambled the ball to safety on this occasion, and relied on his defence to serve in like manner on the remaining occasions when Beldham and Martin created consternation in and around the Knightsı penalty area before the final whistle.

Meanwhile, Oksuz was continuing to give the Kingz defence cause for concern, firing wide from close range in the 83rd minute after Schjerven had been out-muscled by Natsioulas, while in the last minute of the aforementioned extraordinarily lengthy period of stoppage time, the substitute combined with fellow replacement Michael Batinovic to present Natsioulas with a chance to secure an even more convincing win for the Knights.

They had to make do with a 2-1 triumph, however, as, after rounding Nicholson, Natiosulası shot was cleared off the line by Schjerven, the last act of note of a match, the result of which leaves the Kingz three points adrift at the bottom of the table, and lifts the Knights up the ladder as a result of their first win of the campaign.