Friday, 19 June 2009 11:56 AM
South Melbourne FC will travel across town on Sunday in a crunch match against the Melbourne Knights at Mansion Stadium (formerly Knights Stadium).
Dubbed as the “Melbourne Derby” between the two most successful football clubs in the state of Victoria, the game remains one of the major football derbies in the nation.
While the glory years of the early to mid 90’s have eluded both clubs in recent times, both fans and players alike look back to those days with passion and pride. Despite some classic regular season matches over the years, it is the finals series hit-outs between these two clubs that take the spotlight.
The first classic finals contest occurred in the 1984 season where Olympic Park played host to an unbelievable semi-final between the clubs. In what caused immense heartache for the Melbourne Knights fans, a John Yzendoorn goal in the 84th minute negated an early Croatia goal to send the game into extra time. In stepped the famous Doug Brown, who scored a double in the 95th and 96th minutes of the game to see South triumphant by 3 goals to 2. South later went on to win the 1984 NSL Championship, while Melbourne Knights were eliminated a week later in the preliminary final by Heidelberg United.
The now infamous 1991 Grand Final is one that South fans remember fondly, with over 23,000 fans crammed into Olympic Park. In a similar manner to the 1984 Semi Final, Melbourne Knights gained the early lead following a goal by Andrew Marth, before South once again equalised in the dying stages after a sublime ball unlocked the Knights defence to allow Joe Palatsides to hit the back of the net. With no goal in extra time, the title was decided in one of the most famous penalty shoot-outs in the history of the game in this country, with South coming from nowhere to win the shootout by 5 goals to 4 and to become National Champions for the second time.
The Knights extracted revenge on South in both 1993/94 and 1994/95 disposing of the Blues en-route to back to back national championships. Their first title came after a two-legged playoff that resulted in a 2-1 Knights victory first up and a 2-2 draw in the return leg, with both fixtures played out at Olympic Park.
The Preliminary Final held at Olympic Park in the 1994/95 season is one remembered for the emergence and dominance of one of Australian Football’s most successful exports. In what was a staggering individual display, former Socceroos Captain and current Newcastle United player Mark Viduka buried South Melbourne early in the game scoring twice just before the interval to keep his side in the driver’s seat. After the break, the big striker once again asserted his ascendancy to seal the game after a Marucic cross was turned in by the sliding Viduka to give his side an unassailable 2 goal cushion. Despite South Melbourne pressure and a double by Con Boutsianis, Melbourne Knights would not deny the Knights and Mark Viduka their famous 3-2 victory.
Since returning to the Victorian Premier League following the demise of the NSL, both clubs have shared the spoils, with the last five meetings resulting in 2 wins and a draw to each side.
South come into the game confidently, following the demolition of Preston last weekend at Bob Jane Stadium. Adding to this confidence will be the knowledge the club legend and former Melbourne Knights player Vaughan Coveny will be available, following his Automatic + 3 game suspension being overturned by the tribunal earlier this week.
He will join a potent attacking trio of Goran Zoric, Fernando De Moraes and Gianni De Nittis, with the latter finding some form last week when he managed to score twice against the battling Lions.
On the other side of the park, the Knights will be seeing the game as a crunch contest as they look to try and keep touch with the top five. After a rocky start to the season, the Knights have signed striker Ian Pulman from the Whitstable Town in the English Ryman Leagues. Pulman was the leading goal scorer for Whitsable last season and many at Mansion Stadium are looking at him to be the saviour in front of goal for the Knights. Also joining the team is Western Australia goalkeeper Neil Young, who picked up a man-of-the-match performance against Oakleigh last week.Many South fans would remember Young after he trialed at South prior to the 2008 VPL season, before opting to head back to Western Australia.
The critical match commences at Mansion Stadium on Sunday at 3pm.