Match Preview – SMFC v Melbourne Knights
Friday, 25 March 2011 10:57 AM
South Melbourne FC hosts the Melbourne Knights on Sunday afternoon in what is the first derby between the two sides in 2011. The match has some added significance as it is almost 20 years since a match between the two sides that many regard as the one that defines the strong footballing rivalry between the two clubs.
Last Friday night, South enjoyed a win at Jack Edwards Reserve for the second consecutive season following a 2-1 win over the Oakleigh Cannons. Marinos Gasparis and captain Steven O’Dor were the goal scorers for the away side, with Gasparis scoring a wonderful volley and O’Dor heading home the winning goal early in the second half. The win consolidated South’s position in the top five and continued a solid run of three consecutive matches unbeaten.
Last Sunday evening, the Melbourne Knights crushed Bentleigh Greens 4-0 at Knights Stadium in a result that could have seen the Knights win by an even bigger margin. Three of the Knights’ four goals came in the last 12 minutes of the match, including two injury-time goals to former South player Yusuf Yusuf. That victory lifted the Knights to just a point outside the top five on the Victorian Premier League table, however three points against South on Sunday afternoon will surely lift the Knights into the top five.
Sunday’s derby falls just short of the 20 year anniversary of the famous 1990/91 National Soccer League Grand Final, played on 5 May 1991 at Olympic Park in Melbourne. A crowd of 23,318 saw Andrew Marth’s opening goal for Minor Premiers Melbourne Croatia cancelled out by Joe Palatsides’ 88th minute equalising goal. South nearly won the match in extra time with a Kimon Taliadoros header but the game was decided by penalties. Misses by Paul Trimboli, Mike Petersen and Palatsides gave Melbourne Croatia opportunities to win the match; however Alan Davidson and Mark Silic sensationally hit the post with their penalties. Both sides kept converting their penalties after that until Ivan Kelic skied his shot over the bar for Melbourne Croatia to amazingly hand South its second National League Championship. One of the great moments in South’s proud and distinguised history is the footage of world footballing legend (and South coach) Ferenc Puskas holding aloft the National Soccer League Championship with captain Ange Postecoglou.
Of concern for South in this weekend’s derby is the fact that the Club has not kept a clean sheet in the 2011 campaign. However in more promising news, the inclusions of Zaim Zeneli as goalkeeper and centre-half Ljubo Miličević gave the defence stability and composure. Steven Topalovic was moved to right-back in a tactical switch and Rhodri Payne maintained his position as left fullback as Miličević slotted into centre-half with O’Dor. The coaching staff will be hoping that as he regains full match fitness, Miličević’s experience and leadership will help ease the defensive problems which have been bugging South so far in 2011.
Sunday’s derby kicks off at 17:00 at John Cain Memorial Park.