Knights v Olympic

Round 22 report by Alan Clark
Melbourne Knights v Sydney Olympic

Sydney Olympic jumped to the top of the NSL, even if just overnight, after defeating Melbourne Knights 3-2 on a scorching Melbourne Friday evening.

Knights twice came from behind to level, but could not manage it a third time. Kresimir Marusic then Elias Augerinos gave Olympic the lead early in each half before it was pegged back by Adrian Cervinski, then Toto Da Costa equalisers. With barely twelve minutes remaining in an evenly matched contest, Pablo Cardozo retook the lead, expertly rifling the ball home from the edge of the area after Knights failed to clear a Marusic corner.

Olympic coach Branko Culina was facing the prospect of repeating earlier trips to Somers Street as his side gained, then surrendered the lead and was happy in the post-match media conference that the pattern had been broken. "Two seasons ago we were one-nil up (but) we lost two-one, last year we were one-nil up and lost two-one in (Knights' coach) Vlado (Vanis') first game. So it's (always) in the back of your mind," he said.

"Melbourne Knights is a very worthy Top Six side and will give many sides a lot of problems."

"When a team comes here and scores three goals, they're a good side," conceded Vanis. "It was an excellent performance from (Olympic). I'm disappointed with the result, nothing else."

Marusic opened the scoring after ten minutes from a cross sent in from the left by Elias Augerinos. Marusic ghosted in at the far post to send his shot across the face of goal beyond Lupce Acevski's despairing dive.

Marusic's involvement was not just in the final touch, as it was he who had played the ball into Augerinos' path before moving late into the scoring position.

Cervinski levelled with only minutes remaining of the half. Olympic had been conceding a number of free-kicks in dangerous positions just outside the penalty-area. Two had been cleared previously, but the lesson had not been learnt. Conceding the third proved costly.

Andy Vargas whipped in the free-kick to the near-post where Cervinski was the first to react, heading high into the net.

Before the equaliser, Toto Da Costa had a chance to increase the Knights' lead after waltzing through to the edge of the penalty-area, exchanging a pass with Lubo Lapsansky before his shot was blocked by Scott Baillie's last-chance challenge.

Knights came out with both barrels blazing in the second half. Before most spectators had fully turned their attention back to the on-field action, Joel Porter shot on the turn close-in which brought out a marvellous reflex save from Bolton. It was just the opening salvo of a blistering Knights restart.

Steve Horvat then made the trek forward from his normal defensive position, letting loose a sizzling shot from the edge of the 18-yard area which flew past Bolton, but crashed off the inside of the far post before rebounding across the face of the goal and out of danger.

But Olympic rode out the storm, then launched an attack of their own which regained them the lead. Lindsay Wilson - who was tearing Knights apart wide on the right - fed an expertly flighted diagonal ball to Augerinos. The pass and the run were so well timed that it allowed Augerinos to burst through the defence facing only a cruelly exposed Bolton who he easily outfoxed for a goal that stunned the home support into silence.

Not a quarter-hour had elapsed before Knights again drew level, and deservedly so given the game's even balance. In a sustained period of pressure, the impressively inventive Da Costa hammered home Lapsansky's touch-back through a crowd of players and past Bolton, surely unsighted in the congested area.

Undaunted, Olympic strove again for the lead, and finally earnt it from Cardozo's winner.