Thursday, 19 March 2009 1:12 PM
By John Kyrou
South Melbourne hosts its old rivals in the Melbourne Knights on Sunday in what promises to be a cracking derby match.
South will go into the fixture on the back of an incredible 7-1 away win against Preston last Sunday, with the win stretching the club’s unbeaten run at Connor Reserve to 23 years. More importantly, the win earned the club its first three points for 2009 after two home defeats opened the new season on a bad note.
The Knights will visit Bob Jane Stadium on the back of an excellent 0-1 victory against the Oakleigh Cannons last Friday. It was an important win for the Knights, making amends after the previous week’s loss at Richmond. With six points from their first three matches, the Knights sit in fourth position on the table, three places above South.
Although South are the highest scoring team in the league after three rounds, the reality is that all the goals were scored in one match. While the seven goals at Preston were remarkable, the reality is that South has failed to score in both home games so far. Despite such a proud home record at Bob Jane Stadium (122 wins in 192 matches and only 39 losses), South has lost at home 12 times since the 2006 VPL championship. A strong home record will be needed to make the VPL finals series and a positive result against a strong Knights side will continue the good form from Preston as well as begin to salvage the side’s home record.
South’s key player in unlocking the Knights defence will be Goran Zoric. After a frustrating 2008 season, the 21 year old has been one of South’s best this season, with a man-of-the-match award in the Hellenic Cup final against Heidelberg and then an unbelievable four goals against Preston. Zoric’s speed and determination to win every challenge, as well as shooting at every opportunity, will be vital in the home side’s attempts at a positive home result against their rivals.
The Melbourne Knights fixture is always a highlight for South, as the two sides have battled out many memorable games over the years. While the Knights never defeated South at Bob Jane Stadium in the old National Soccer League, they have taken the honours away from Lakeside twice since the two clubs returned to the VPL. For many South fans their favourite win against the Knights at Bob Jane Stadium is in fact their first ever encounter at the ground, when Ivan Kelic’s late header defeated the reigning NSL champions 1-0 in front of 11,547 fans in the 1995/96 NSL season. South has also recorded its highest ever win against the Knights at home, when it defeated the Knights 7-0 at Lakeside in 2006.
In the corresponding fixture last season, the high-flying Knights fought back from a 2-0 deficit early in the second half to draw 2-2 against a South side desperate for the three points to push for a finals position. In the last three league meetings between the two sides, South’s defence has leaked 7 goals against the Knights and as a result the Knights have picked up seven points from a possibly nine.
Sunday’s match will be yet another installment in a cross-town rivalry between two powerhouse Australian clubs that have battled in many memorable games both on a state and national league level. Kick-off is 6pm on Sunday at Bob Jane Stadium.