Knights v Ad City

Round 22 report by Alan Clark
Melbourne Knights v Adelaide City

Melbourne Knights' long-suffering fans were able to re-kindle memories of their glory years with a comprehensive 3-1 win over championship contenders Adelaide City, even though the win didn't move Knights from their position second bottom in the league.

The win was Knights' first since a narrow 1-0 win away at fellow strugglers Gippsland Falcons in early December last year, and their first at home since their late November 2-0 triumph over perennial cellar-dwellers Canberra Cosmos.

But it was forwards, not backwards, Knights new coach Josip Biskic was looking: "They showed their character. We outplayed (Adelaide City) in the second half."

"I'm so happy, the guys deserved the win. I told them before the game 'Only you can change the situation here, nobody else' and that's what they did."

It all looked as if it would end in tears however as Adelaide City had commenced in barn-storming fashion - Damian Mori as expected causing the greatest havoc. Ransford Banini had begun at right back, but was soon shifted to stay close to City's sharpshooter.

After 21 minutes what had seemed inevitable finally transpired. Making great strides into space down the right, City midfielder David Terminello ran onto a cleverly played ball which split the Knights' covering attempts. Terminello ran, letting loose a ball to the near post to where Mori had run, closely marked by Banini. Knights' keeper Joe Didulica joined the convergence, wary of Mori's potential to deflect the arriving ball.

There was no touch, and this was sufficient to flummox Banini's and Didulica's anticipation of Mori's intervention. Terminello's cross had transmuted into a shot, becoming the opening goal.

Followers of Adelaide City's style would then be prepared for City to rest with that advantage, defending in deep and relying on the usually unquestioned mastery of experienced Socceroos Milan Ivanovic and Alex Tobin, frustrating the opponents into leaving space for Mori's pace to exploit.

But Knights declined to fall into this trap - harassing Ivanovic and Tobin at every opportunity and denying them time on the ball to probe for the opening.

Ante Kovacevic had taken the field by this stage after starting his 100th game on the bench, and his interdiction was to prove crucial.

The equaliser came on 27 minutes and after a goalmouth scramble following a corner. Alex Kiratzoglou had managed to start the action with a shot from just outside the six yard box, the ball was blocked, eventually running loose for Banini to sidefoot home.

Just before the hour, Kovecevic had a long-range effort which Jason Petkovic managed to touch over for a corner. Tobin came to City's rescue with a header from under the crossbar as the corner was swept in.

The pressure began to tell on the visitors, and Knights seemed to draw strength despite the energy-sapping conditions. Just two minites later, Kiratzoglou went on a weaving run before supplying Ice Kutlesovski who shot narrowly wide from distance with Petkovic well beaten.

Knights took the lead in the 67th minute. Their constant pressure deserved the goal even though it came in fortuitous circumstances from which the experienced Ivan Kelic capitalised with deadly effect. Knights were awarded a free-kick 26 metres out. Michael Reda's shot hit the wall, dropping neatly for Kelic on the 18 yaerd line. Kelic still had work to do to turn and find the target, but he did so with the calmness of the ton-up striker he is.

If Knights' two earlier goals were fashioned from meagre scraps, the third and final was extravagant and skilled. Tom Pondeljak ran from the half-way line making ground as he watched the City defence back off. Finally, Ivanovic was compelled to tackle at the edge of the penalty-area, but watched as the ball was whipped out of range with a clever Pondeljak sidestep. Now in front of the full face of the goal, Pondeljak's shot whistled in.

"The first twenty minutes we looked like we wanted to win the game, and then we stuffed it up," said bemused City coach Zoran Matic after the game. Matic made no excuses for the playing conditions - most of the match was played in temperatures in the high 30s - "This team is not fit mentally, but physically they're OK," he said. "I know what happened, and I will fix it," he added ominously.