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The first top-flight game back at The Grange Reserve in a decade had all the hallmarks of an exciting occasion. Nick Tolios’ Kingston, buoyed by their comeback draw against grand finallists Oakleigh, after just one match already had a degree of belief in consolidating a top-tier status. Arthur Papas’ Gully, on the other hand, would have been searching for a response after a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Bentleigh Greens. But it was another sinking feeling for Gully early when just minutes into the contest Velibor Mitrovic advanced forward, lay the ball off to Erhan Yalaz, whose left-footed whipped cross met the head of the unmarked Damian Iaconis, continuing his 2016 form into the new year with a comfortable finish from close range. Similar to North Geelong taking a lead early against a perceived more-fancied opponent, the hosts struggled to hold their lead and the equaliser came soon after. George Lambadaridis had a tame, low corner kick cleared back to him, so his follow-up effort was delivered higher and deeper towards the back post. Luke Walker, who hadn’t scored in 26 league appearances for Gully last season, had his first of the campaign in just the second game of 2017 when his large presence in the box was too much to deal with – his header nestling in the bottom right corner. Gully, buoyed by the equaliser, soon had a second. A release from Jeremy Walker had Alex Caniglia through on goal. Having earlier had an attempt thwarted by Kile Kennedy, this time the keeper’s attempts to impede the winger were in vain as the ball slipped past his reach and Wade Dekker was on hand to apply the finishing touch. There were casualties from both sides in the first half as Daniel Bennett limped off with upper-body problems, the diagnosis looking bleak with a long-term collarbone injury on the cards. Hamish Millar took his spot at right-back. Meanwhile, Gully’s goalscorer Walker also fell victim during the contest, replaced at centre-back by Callum Richardson. Despite slotting in seamlessly, with half time approaching and Gully now looking comfortable, a looping ball during a Kingston attack struck his arm high up and the referee had no hesitation in calling a penalty. Mitrovic stepped up to make it 2-2. If the first half was eventful enough, the second didn’t let spectators down. Gully once more jumped onto the front foot and it was a usual suspect that did the damage. Having been found by a pinpoint diagonal ball from midfield from Jay Davies, Alex Caniglia on the left wing cut back in, composed himself, and struck a low shot into the bottom left corner. 2-3 to Gully. A trademark from the inverted winger, Nick Tolios would have been disappointed with his side’s inability to prevent the type of situation seen so often from Caniglia in Richmond’s colours last season. But the action wasn’t to end there. With the contest approaching its climax, the lively Yalaz and Matt Breeze were contesting for a 50-50 ball when the two tangled. Fired up, the former then got into an altercation with the onrushing Jonathan Bounas, with both players receiving a yellow for their involvement. The bigger problem for Bounas was that it was his second booking and now Gully were down to 10 men. The numerical advantage seemed to work in the home side’s favour because minutes later it was 3-3, and it were the two players involved in the first goal that again combined for the third. With numbers pushing forward, Iaconis was able to trap a looped ball in the box, subtly teeing up Yalaz for a scrambled finish past Rani Dowisha. Now it was 3-3 and again the match had taken a new turn. The moment marked a key milestone for Yalaz, his first goal for the club coming off the back of a second fruitful outing for the young winger, who is flourishing in a first-team role – an opportunity he struggled to receive at Port Melbourne. Having fought back from a deficit once more, Kingston had the opportunity to claim a winner late as added time neared. With the tricky Mouad Zwed subbed on in the second half, he took control of the ball in the front third when Jay Davies lunged in with a hefty challenge. On first glance, from the far side of the pitch, it resembled a challenge for which Whittlesea’s Anthony Cassar was sent off against Brunswick, and likewise the referee had no hesitation in brandishing a red card. Others were adamant it wasn’t worthy of a red, but the referee had made up his mind and nothing was going to change that. And so from the resulting set piece, Faisal Sakhizada came ghosting in at the back post but his volley flew over the bar. That was the best chance for the winner, with the 9-man visitors holding firm for the final few moments of the contest. Both camps were left frustrated at throwing away their leads, not taking other chances, and ultimately some of the refereeing calls and non-calls. But for the neutral it all made compelling viewing, and again indicates that the 2017 season may be one of the most fiercely contested yet in Victoria’s top flight.

Two goals in the last six minutes has seen newly promoted Kingston City salvage a 2-2 draw in the NPL season opening clash against rivals Oakleigh Cannons at Jack Edwards Reserve last night. Substitute Mouad Zwed was the hero for the visitors as he came off the bench and contributed to the point via an assist as well as winning the late penalty, duly converted by Velibor Mitrovic. The 2016 NPL2 Champions were playing their first top-flight game in almost a decade against their local neighbours, who themselves were looking to better last season’s fourth placed league finish. Oakleigh fielded two new signings in the starting 11, including Iqi Jawadi whereas City started the game off with six of their new additions on the park in a new-look playing squad. Dean Piemonte got the Cannons off to the perfect start in the 13th minute when his sublime dipping volley left new City goalkeeper Kile Kennedy exposed off his line for the opening goal of the season. Kingston pushed hard for a response with Chris Irwin denied by the offside flag, while promotion hero Damian Iaconis and new boy Erhan Yalaz were thwarted by sharp saves from experienced Cannons shot-stopper John Honos. Oakleigh doubled their advantage six minutes into the second half when Dimitri Hatzimouratis’ low-cross into the box was met by Dusan Bosnjak, who struck the ball into the back of the net. The hosts were missing star recruit Nate Foster through injury but Hatzimouratis came close to sealing all three points only for Kennedy to make an acrobatic save to deny him. Kingston introduced Zwed on after the hour-mark for the injured Irwin, with the Polish-born Libyan winger and Daniel Bennett forcing Honos into making two superb reflex saves as the Cannons looked to hold onto their advantage. However some great perseverance and trickery saw Zwed beat a number of opposition defenders in and around the box before crossing the ball into the danger, with fellow substitute Sean McIlroy profiting to maximum effect as his half volley from close range reduced the deficit. Zwed was the protagonist once more six minutes later when he got onto the wrong side of Thomas Matthews on the byline, the English right-back fouling him inside the box. Mitrovic stepped up and calmly converted the spot-kick, although a drama-packed night ended with McIlroy sent off for appearing to head-butt Abdalla Okud in the moments that followed the penalty. Oakleigh frantically went in search of a match winner in the final few minutes of the contest but it never came as the new boys on the block picked up a valuable point on their return to the top tier. Both sides have home matches in Round 2 with Oakleigh hosting Bulleen next Friday night, while Kingston entertain Green Gully the following Monday at The Grange. Oakleigh Cannons 2 (Piemonte 13, Bosnjak 51) drew to Kingston City 2 (McIlroy 84, Mitrovic 90pk) Crowd: 1,700 (estimate) at Jack Edwards Reserve OC: Honos (GK), Matthews, Pantelidis, Wilford, Rizk, Okud Jawadi (Georgopoulos) 83, Piemonte, Bosnjak, Zoric (Marafioti 78), Hatzimouratis (4-2-3-1). Unused Subs: Kraloglou (GK), Alinejad, Sarwari KC: Kennedy, Bennett, Love, Sakhizada, Tidmarsh, Stamatiou, Irwin (Zwed 59), Konstantinidis (McIlroy 64), Mitrovic, Yalaz (Millar 80), Iaconis (4-2-3-1). Unused Subs: Sadikovski (GK), Sulemanovski

PS4 NPL ROUND 3 KINGSTON CITY FC v NORTH GEELONG WARRIORS

PS4 NPL ROUND 1  OAKLEIGH CANNONS FC v KINGSTON CITY FC


PS4 NPL ROUND 2 KINGSTON CITY FC v GREEN GULLY FC

PS4 NPL ROUND 4 KINGSTON CITY FC v MELBOURNE NIGHTS

Kingston City is beginning to garner a reputation in the top flight for being the comeback kings, making it three late equalisers in its first three games this season – just without going on to claim all three points. The newly promoted side would be buoyed by sneaking points against tough opposition in Oakleigh Cannons and Green Gully but playing host to another newly promoted side in North Geelong Warriors presented an opportunity to notch up a first win of the season at The Grange Reserve on a picturesque Monday night. The home side was not without its chances to gain an advantage in the first half as Erhan Yalaz was a livewire on left side but the final product was lacking with Velibor Mitrovic and Damian Iaconis misfiring on separate occasions. Warriors had a chance of its own to break the deadlock in the 25th minute as an aerial ball in the middle of the ground from Andrew Doig exposed a gap in the Kingston defence leaving Bobby Vidanovski one-on-one with goalkeeper Kile Kennedy but Vidanovski’s left-footed effort was wide of the mark. With either team unable to capitalise on its chances, both sides went into the break scoreless. In the second half, Yalaz was once again causing headaches for North Geelong as he broke through into the box before going to ground after being pushed over. Appeals for a penalty followed but after some hesitation the referee waved for play on. The referee did blow the whistle at the other end of the pitch minutes later, as Vito Cichello was brought down by Velibor Mitrovic just outside the box, making for a free-kick in a dangerous position. Josh Pugh stepped up to take the set piece, firing past the wall and into the left side of the goal to beat Kile Kennedy and give Warriors the lead. Marko Stevanja was making his debut in goals for North Geelong in place of long-time servant Daniel Zilic and he showed his worth as Chris Irwin found Mitrovic on the right side who squared a low cross to Iaconis who was denied by a superb reflex save as Stevanja pushed the shot wide for a corner. The goalkeeper produced another fine effort to deny Kingston an equaliser as Mitrovic whipped in a free-kick from the left side to find Simo Jovanovic who volleyed his effort into the crossbar but Mouad Zwed’s effort on the rebound was on target until Stevanja recovered to tip the ball over the goal. Zwed would get the better of Stevanja with his next effort however with just under 10 minutes remaining in regulation time. Yalaz broke into the area before laying off to Irwin whose effort was palmed away but Stelios Konstantinidis fired a pass across the face of goal to find Zwed who tapped in from close range. Kingston pressed late for a winner and Konstantinidis looked to be the hero after finding space on the right wing before cutting inside and curling an effort from the top of the box only to be denied by the crossbar. Ultimately the two sides had to settle for a goal and a point each in a frenetic 1-1 draw.

Over at Knights Stadium, Kingston City secured their first top-flight win in nearly a decade with an upset 2-0 triumph over the Melbourne Knights. The home side were looking to carry on the momentum after stunning the Bentleigh Greens 3-1 away last week but were without the services of injured midfielder Jake Barker-Daish. The visitors meanwhile were coming into the clash following a four-game turnaround from their last game and had collected three draws from their opening three matches of the campaign. Nick Tolios’ men had the first real shot in anger when tricky winger Mouad Zwed hit the crossbar having struck his shot from just outside the area in the 10th minute. Knights forward Kym Harris also tried his luck from outside the area only to be denied by City shot-stopper Kile Kennedy who was looking to secure his first clean sheet of the season. Velibor Mitrovic’s free kick sailed just over the bar before Kennedy made a low diving save to deny Knights danger Elvis Kasomba as the two teams entered the half-time break level. Andrew Marth’s men produced the first noteworthy chance of the second term when Kasomba’s run down the right set-up Danny Dixon only for the English-born winger to put his effort over the bar. A foul on Zwed inside the penalty area by Knights captain Ben Surey allowed Mitrovic the opportunity to put his side in front on the 57th minute mark with attacking midfielder making no mistake from the spot, netting his third goal of the year with all three strikes coming from the eleven metre mark. Kingston almost doubled their advantage just minutes later when a deflection fell into the path of Zwed, however the Polish-born Libyan could not direct his shot on target. The game’s turning point occurred up the other end on the hour-mark when Kasomba was brought down in the box however Jason Hick’s failed to convert as his spot-kick struck the upright. The miss proved costly as the 2016 NPL2 Champions doubled their advantage when substitute Slaven Vranesevic stepped-up and launched a free-kick from outside the area which beat Harry Cakarun in Knights goal, causing jubilation on the visitor’s bench. That goal deflated the home side who have now lost two from two at home this season while City remains unbeaten going into next week’s home game against Hume City.