South Melbourne knocked out staunch rivals Melbourne Knights in one of the most passionate derbies in Australian football in front of a record crowd of 4,750 at the Knights Stadium.
Prior to last night’s encounter the two historic Melbournian sides haven’t faced each other in a finals series since Sunday 4th of May, 1997. And the fans were in full voice to witness what is amongst the fiercest rivalries in Victorian football.
Early proceedings saw few chances until eleven minutes in when Melbourne Knights’ lynchpin Andrew Barisic mustered up the first real chance of the game with a glancing header that went just over the South Melbourne goal.
Minutes later South Melbourne got their first opportunity on goal in the 16th minute courtesy of a curling Luke Hopper shot wide of the goalmouth.
Knights led the way in terms of clear cut chances in the first half, there was no exception when in the 39th minute a Shayan Alinejad deflected chip just whistled over the bar.
Before half time in the 41st minute Barisic was able to find Alinejad from deep and follow his pass to receive the ball once again but ultimately have his relatively weak shot saved by South Melbourne stopper Peter Gavalas.
The first half ended with Knights dominant, however, unable to capitalise on the chances created by the likes of Alinejad, Colosimo and Barisic.
The beginning of the second half didn’t look too dissimilar with Barisic having his 55th minute effort saved yet again.
South Melbourne began to find their feet in the derby as a 61st minute Tyson Holmes shot ricocheted under the bar almost World Cup 1966-esque.
Minutes later at the other end, Barisic failing to shoot in front of goal instead opting to pass into open space leaving the Knights fans in collective groans.
The break through came when South Melbourne hit the lead in the 67th minute after Holmes’ cross found Trent Rixon who opened the scoring for the former Club World Cup participants.
Tensions rose and the crowd began to become restless, even more so after the side had Barisic’s goal disallowed in the 74th minute.
The semi-final encounter was wearing thin and Melbourne Knights’ best chance to send the game into extra time fell to Barisic who miskicked the ball at the most crucial of moments.
In the dying moments of the game Melbourne Knights fought to find another clear cut opportunity but their prayers fell on deaf ears, as South Melbourne held onto end the game victors.
South Melbourne XI: Gavalas 1 (gk) ; Mala 2, Bran 4, Edifano 5 (Meredith 12), Hopper 7, Rixon 9, Holmes 10, Jawadi 13, Kearney 16, Soolsma 17, Kelly 19.
Melbourne Knights XI: May 1 (gk); Uskok 5, McGarry 6, Barisic 7, McLachlan 8, Cvitkovic 10, A.Colosimo 11 (Talajic 17), Batur 12, Surey 14, Alinejad 19, Torrens 24 (J.Colosimo 9).