Monday, 4 July 2005 10:35 AM
By Mark Van Aken
With the season spiralling towards its conclusion, the Melbourne Knights came to Bob Jane Stadium needing to take at least a point to keep their finals hopes alive. A 60th minute goal by Englishman Luke Slater ensured they would collect all 3 points and inflict South Melbourne’s second consecutive defeat in the VPL.
It was a match of fluctuating fortunes for the old NSL rivals with both sides enjoying strong periods of possession and attack. It was the visitors who came out on top however, due largely to some rock solid defence.
Robbie Catanach made his SMFC debut after signing mid week from NSW Premier League side Blue Devils. The striker was solid up front and, while he didn’t find the back of the net, he showed signs that he could provide that certain something up front that SMFC has often lacked through out the season.
“I’m disappointed that I didn’t play that well”, said Catanach after the game. To say he didn’t play well however is to not tell the whole story.
The Knights’ Luke Slater was in the thick of it from the start, receiving a yellow card for a reckless 2nd minute challenge. Catanach was lively in the early going setting up Peter Koutsoupias who troubled Knights keeper Cagalj. At the other end of the park Dario Matkovic was causing problems for the SMFC defence.
South coach John Anastasiadis was forced to make an early change when George Tzirtis took a knock after 15 minutes and was replaced by Evan Karavitis. The change didn’t trouble the Knights, a Kozic cross met Caldwell awkwardly in the box and minutes later Kiratzoglu danced through the South defence and put a solid shot on goal, forcing a save from Dean Anastasiadis.
South appeared hard done by on the half hour when Dario Matkovic looked to have handled the ball in the penalty area, however no call was made. Rama Tavsancioglu worked tirelessly for South, picking up two heavy knocks that saw him receive brief medical attention. Neither however could stop him from returning and leading the SMFC charge.
Catanach continued to toil in attack for the blue and whites, highlighted by a well weighted through ball that put Koutsoupias one on one with the keeper. He could not capitalise and the sides went into half time locked at 0-0.
It remained level until the hour mark when a Slater rocket inside the box careered past Dean Anastasiadis to gift the Knights the advantage. The strike prompted his brother to substitute Koutsoupias for Ryan Dinse as South went searching for an equaliser.
The Knights Tom Milardovic was cautioned mid way through the half for a reckless tackle on Karavitis, while minutes later the home side almost levelled when Cattanach drew the Knights defence and laid off to Scot MacNicol. The Queenslander had an open look on goal but sprayed the shot well over the bar.
South again threatened when a long-range effort from Kosta Salapasidis forced a save from Cagalj. The ball rebounded back into play and was subsequently cleared by the scrambling Knights defence.
Anastasiadis urged his men to go forward in search of a goal in the dying minutes. The closest they would get was a long, floating attempt by Karavitis that very nearly deceived Cagalj.
Try as they might, the home team could not find the back of the net and the Knights collected a very handy and largely deserved away win.
Knights coach Joe Biskic was naturally delighted with the result. “Any time you can come to South Melbourne and win…. you are very happy. We started to build with our excellent defence and worked from there.”
SMFC boss John Anastasiadis was clearly disappointed with the loss and his side’s inability to make ground on Green Gully, who suffered a shock loss to Bentleigh Greens.
South now remain in third place and must look ahead to this weeks clash away to Sunshine Georgies.