South Melbourne has secured an extremely important three points, after keeping a clean sheet and putting three goals past old rivals, the Melbourne Knights on Sunday afternoon.
Gianni Di Nittis silenced his critics with a goal either side of half time, steering South Melbourne to their first league points in five rounds.
Peter Zois was terrific in goals with a man of a match performance, stopping countless shots from the Knights front men.
With much at stake for both sides, the first twenty minutes were approached cautiously, with both teams opting to sit back and avoid any risk of conceding an early goal.
The Knights went into match knowing that a loss would push them back to second bottom on goal difference, while South Melbourne were desperate to end an awful run of results tracing back to round 13.
Both teams held consistently good shape, putting a lot of bodies behind the ball and moving it with extreme caution.
The first half chance of the match came in the 19th minute, when Knights’ striker Kevin Townson forced a save from Peter Zois via a direct free kick, 25 yards from goal.
Jean Dubois had a great chance to open the scoring for the Knights three minutes later, after he was fed a great through ball into the box by teammate Adrian Zahra. His shot was destined for the far bottom corner, until the fingertips of Peter Zois sent the ball rolling narrowly wide of the post for a corner.
A Danny Tiatto free kick set up Thomas Skara for a free header in the 26th minutes, putting the ball over the bar and spoiling another chance for the Knights.
The Knight’s good run continued into the half hour mark with Dubois coming close yet again, shooting the ball narrowly wide with a promising effort from distance.
South’s first real chance of the match came in the 32nd minute after their captain Ramazan Tavsancioglu put the ball over the bar with a speculative effort from distance.
South were at it again just a few minutes later when Joseph Keenan unleashed a vicious strike to the bottom corner, only to be denied by Sebastian Mattei.
South’s late momentum continued and they were rewarded in the 40th minute when Gianni Di Nittis slotted home his first of the afternoon. Di Nittis received the ball 25 yards from goal when he pulled the trigger, intelligently using the outside of the boot. The strike forced a good save by Mattei, but the ball still fell behind him and into the net.
South almost claimed a second in the final minute of the half when Marino Gasparis played a great through ball to Hamid Basma in the 18-yard box. Basma couldn’t finish, spraying the ball wide of the left hand post.
The Knights went into half time ruing their chances, while South were happy to be in front. Although they had registered far less chances, Di Nittis was clinical with his finishing, while the Knights spoiled theirs.
The first half started much like that first, a real midfield battle with minimal flow in attack. The weather didn’t help, as the rain began to fall just after kickoff.
South Melbourne controlled the ball in the early stages, but failed to penetrate the penalty area with any real force.
Keenan had the first decent chance of the half in the 62nd minute after being played through on the left of the penalty area. His finish was poor, spraying the ball over the crossbar.
Dubois went close again in the 63rd minute with a heavy strike on the edge of the box, with Zois saving the day again, completing an excellent diving fingertip save to his right.
Dubois was at it again three minutes later after a Tiatto in-swinging free kick found his head at the far post, forcing a reflex save by Zois. The save rebounded back, but was cleared just before anyone got a foot on the ball for the equaliser.
The Knights continued to pressure the South Melbourne goal, this time Townson putting Zois into action with another diving save, who was having a tremendous afternoon in goals.
South punished the Knights for their missed chances and went two up at the 74th minute mark. It was Di Nittis again as he claimed his second for the afternoon. It was another terrific finish, this time with his head, angling the ball into the top of the net after a Joey Keenan corner met him at the near post.
After the goal the game slowed right down, with the Knights appearing to drop their heads after the second goal. South Melbourne began to dominate the possession in midfield, keeping the ball away from the Knight’s playmakers.
South Melbourne put the icing on the cake in the 87th minute, with Marino Gasparis joining in on the celebrations. South counter-attacked and caught the Knight’s defence napping, going two-on-two on the last line. Keenan made an intelligent wide run into the box, before squaring it up for Gasparis, who tapped it in to an open net.
The win was pivotal to South Melbourne’s season, ending a four match losing streak and putting them eight points clear of the relegation zone. Next Sunday afternoon South Melbourne are back at John Cain Memorial Park, facing top-placed Hume City, needing all three points to have any chance of making the finals this season.
The Knights on the other hand drop to second bottom on goal difference and are facing a difficult final four weeks to survive relegation. Next Sunday afternoon they face Altona Magic who sit in tenth position, only two goals ahead of the Knights on goal difference. Next week’s clash is set to be the most important for both club’s seasons, with a win for either side meaning an absence from the relegation zone for another week.
Courtesy of Football Victoria