Almanac Soccer – NPL Round 1: An All-Croatian Affair and a Thunderous Late Show in Dandenong

I decided to dedicate my weekend to attending Dandenong City hosting Melbourne Knights on Friday night and a last-minute decision on Saturday evening to attend Dandenong Thunder opening their game against Eastern Lions.

 

Unfortunately, the first game was a one-sided affair with not much electricity in the air as the deflated home crowd looked on, watching the side formerly known as Chelsea Hajduk go 2-0 down in the first half.

 

It only took eight minutes for Melbourne Knight’s Frangie to flick in a volley from a looping cross; he secured his brace half an hour later.

 

The best moment of the night was watching Sokol score the third with an audacious chip from outside the box. The keeper was well within his area but the unexpected attempt had him wrong footed; he watched helplessly as the ball went up, over and into the far corner.

 

The west took the three points over their eastern rivals in the opening round.

 

Credit to Dandenong City’s media team, they’ve dug through the archives to display some historical photos (on Twitter) in celebration of the many connections both Croatian clubs currently hold. Some of the snippets shown below:

 

 

Knights legend Josip Biškic led Hajduk to an historic promotion into the second tier in 2011, whilst he also had a loan stint at Chelsea Hajduk in the ‘90s during his storied NSL career [Source: Dandenong City]

 

 

 

 

Melbourne Croatia and Socceroos great Billy Vojtek played for Hajduk in the ‘80s [Source: Dandenong City]

 

 

 

 

Our current assistant coach Steve Gojevic is a Knights great – ex-captain, top goalscorer and best and fairest winner. [Source: Dandenong City]

 

 

 

Over the railroad to the other Dandenong venue the next day, questions remained as to how confident Thunder were coming to the start of the season given their 4-0 drubbing by South merely a week ago.

 

The quality of play in the first half was nothing short of lacklustre; there had not been any threatening sequence of play while the bright rays of the sunset burnt both corneas and into our souls.

 

It was easy to feel sorry for the keeper playing against the sun but really I had hoped someone would just make an absolute knob of himself in defence so I could see the ball go in.

 

At least the home fans were getting absolutely wankered behind the goals and kept up the banter. A flashpoint near the end occurred from a dodgy tackle and all the handbags were thrown and shirt pulling. Luckily, I was able to get a snippet of all the commotion and captured the moment a Lions player was sat on his arse by the forearm of the tallest bloke on pitch. Unwise there, mate.

 

The second half was more memorable. Eastern Lions had eventually lost the skirmish in the midfield and were on the back foot the entire time with plenty of goal mouth scrambles and their keeper, Keegan Coulter, tasked to do most of the dirty work of smothering opportunities or punching balls as crosses came in.

 

Sulemani opened the scoring halfway through and jumped into the crowd by the membership stand for a brief pandemonium moment of beers being thrown in the air, and secured a brace brilliantly from outside the box near the end…a pile on ensued amongst the Red and Black army nearby. There was a late scare before full time as the Lions pulled one back and another shot on goal hit the woodwork. However, Thunder controlled most of the second half and secured the three points in front of their home fans, a respectably healthy attendance at George Andrews Reserve.

 

If you wish to watch highlights, or live stream of the NPL games in Victoria, I’d highly recommend signing up to npl.tv for free and have access to their production talent, match centre clippings of the game and their live coverage. NPL live coverage and highlights are found HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you wish to see more photos of both games I have covered, the albums are published HERE

 

 

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Comments

  1. Malby Dangles says

    Great pics and good to get some local world game commentary and action!

  2. Thanks for your support Malby ;)

  3. Good stuff Luke, round ball action is always a sight for sore eyes on the Almanac!

  4. More than happy to keep them beyond sore as I plan to do posts on a weekly schedule this season haha

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