By Lance Jenkinson
Melbourne Knights are one of the most dangerous counter-attacking teams in the National Premier League.
The Knights’ ability to turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye was on show in a 3-2 victory over Port Melbourne Sharks at Knights Stadium on Friday night.
On the back foot for most of the night, the Knights were in the negative for shots-on-goal (7-3) and corners (13-2), but they still came out on top in the game to register a third consecutive win.
The Knights were patient all night, absorbing a possession-dominant and dangerous Port Melbourne, while waiting for the right times to attack.
Once the Knights made their transition into the front third, they were lethal.
Gian Albano’s electrifying speed and Marijan Cvitkovic’s smart diagonal runs caught the Port Melbourne defence on the hop, while Hamish Watson’s hard work around the penalty box provided an outlet.
This night belonged to Albano, who fired in a double for the Knights.
It brought to an end Albano’s frustrating five-round goal drought, which was the only missing ingredient in what has been a superb season so far for the energetic winger.
“Very happy to get on the score sheet, finally,” Albano told the club’s official media channel Knights TV.
“[It comes] after a lot of hard work in training,”
Albano’s first goal came in just the sixth minute after Port Melbourne had opened the match positively with a five-minute period of attack.
Luke Jurcic sent a long ball down the left side to Albano, who did well to keep the ball in close to the sideline and made an aggressive run into the box, negotiating a way past a defender and striking powerfully into the left corner.
The Knights doubled their lead seven minutes before the break.
Watson’s courage in the air to compete for a 50-50 ball created a spillage for Tomislav Uskok to run onto.
Uskok made a nifty turn in the box and fired into Port Melbourne goalkeeper Matthew Symes, but he could only parry the ball into the path of Cvitkovic for a karate style tap in.
While the Knights led 2-0 at half time, it was the tireless work of their back four of Jurcic, Ayden Brice, Corey Sewell and Joseph Franjic, along with some outstanding goalkeeping from Harry Cakarun, that ensured they held a two-goal advantage.
Cakarun was impenetrable in the first half, denying Port Melbourne attackers Valentin Cesnik and Yuta Konagaya with brilliant saves from close range.
Port Melbourne refused to yield though and halved the deficit in the 53rd minute through substitute Kamal Ibrahim.
Ibrahim’s powerful shot into the top right corner gave Cakarun little chance to make a save.
Only a matter of seconds later, the Knights took their two-goal lead back, when Port Melbourne inexplicably failed to clear a through ball from Franjic and it dribbled into the path of Albano, who coolly slotted his second goal of the game.
At no stage in the second half were the Knights comfortable.
The more Port Melbourne pressed forward, the more likely it looked as through they could peg a goal back.
Eventually Port Melbourne scored through Finn Beakhurst, who took advantage of sloppy Knights defending to make it 3-2 in the 70th minute.
There were some nervous moments for the Knights in the last 20 minutes, but they withstood the pressure and held on for their fifth win out of six games.
Melbourne Knights will feature in a top-three blockbuster with Avondale at Avenger Park on Saturday at 3.15pm.