Knights spoil the Avondale party
Melbourne Knights has defeated NPL newcomers Avondale FC in a come-from-behind 3-1 victory at Knights Stadium.
Avondale debutant Chris Irwin pounced on a defensive howler by Knights keeper Chris May, before the home side struck back through Josh Brekalo and Andrew Barisic, but were lucky to go into half time only a goal down.
With former Croatian international and Knights prodigy Josip Simunic in attendance, the visitors put in an abject defensive display in the first period.
Avondale seemed unperturbed by the top tier early on, keeping possession and winning a series of dangerous free kicks around the Knights area.
Andrew Le Page tested Chris May, while Jonathan Munoz whistled inches wide of the upright with the 'keeper well beaten.
Disaster struck on 28 minutes for the well-fancied hosts, as a speculative long ball caused confusion and with May charging off his line to clear under duress, the ball fell for Avondale's new signing, Chris Irwin, to control and lob home from 35 yards.
Both sides then had their chances, with Avondale’s Julien Cannizzaro forcing May into a fine save, before Knights forward Andrew Barisic miscued his header at the back post as Knights hit on the counter.
Andrew Marth's men lacked shape in defence. Yet again, Irwin broke the offside trap only to be denied by the crossbar, as this period of profligacy was punished by the visitors after the interval.
The host’s resolve was called upon, and substitute Josh Brekalo, brought on for Anthony Colosimo, provided the equaliser on 52 minutes. Avondale failed to clear a series of dangerous crosses, leaving Brekalo free to lash home from 12-yards.
Avondale had their chances to take the lead, with strong forward Aleksiy Khrapkho denied by the base of the post.
But Andrew Barisic continued the Knights revival, putting them ahead after slotting past Frazer Siddall after a ball through the Avondale defence.
Khrapkho had another golden chance with 15 minutes remaining, his touch eluding him as he bore down on goal with Knights defender Adrian Del Monaco thwarting the danger.
Avondale tired as the game entered its conclusion, and Alex Dao tapped home from two yards to cap off the win .
Knights host Northcote City on Friday night, while Avondale travel to face Hume next Sunday.
FT: Melbourne Knights 3 (Brekalo 52', Barisic 64', Dao 90+3’) defeated Avondale Heights 1 (Irwin 35') at Knights Stadium [HT 1-0]
Melbourne Knights: 1. Chris MAY (GK), 3. Adrian DEL MONACO, 5. Milan BATUR, 6. Tomislav USKOK, 8. James McGARRY (17. Josh BARRIOS), 11. Anthony COLOSIMO (18. Josh BREKALO 46'), 13. Anthony KATOFORIS, 15. Alex DAO, 21. Stipo ANDRIJASEVIC, 23. Adrian ZAHRA, 27. Andrew BARISIC (7. Chris TALAJIC)
Unused Sub(s): 2. Luke Jurcic, 25. Michael O'FARRELL (GK)
Yellow Card(s): 3. Adrian DEL MONACO 46', 8. James MCGARRY 47' 6. Tomislav USKOK 48', 21. Stipo ANDRIJASIVIC 58'
Red Card(s): Nil
Avondale Heights: 20. Fraser SIDDALL (GK), 4. Chris IRWIN, 5. Jeff FLEMING, 7. Andrew LE PAGE, 8. Simon TOLLI (25. Jason PRINCIPATO), 9. Aleksiy KHRAPKO, 13. Michele CRAZIA, 15. Zoran PAJIC, 18. Jonathan MUNOZ (17. Phillip RICCOBENE 67'), 27. Julien CANNIZZARO, 28. Anthony FALLONE (6. Anthony STRANO)
Unused Sub(s): 1. Anthony SARIC (GK), 10. Burakhan KOCA
Yellow Card(s): Julien CANNIZZARO 40'
Red Card(s): Nil
PHOTO: Mark Avellino