Melbourne Heart 3 Sydney 1
Melbourne Heart entertained its largest home crowd for a league match of 13,752 (apart from those against cross-town rival Victory), with a thumping three-one win over Sydney FC. The opening spell was somewhat languid in the heat and humidity but once Heart got its opening goal the crowd came to life and the rest was full of incident and some excellent play by both sides.
Heart was close to full strength but missing Patrick Gerhardt in central defence, while Sydney gave Socceroo skipper Lucas Neill his first start to the manifest annoyance of the home support, who booed his every touch of the ball.
Both sides tended to play in front of the opposition defences in the early stages so most of the few shots on goal were from distance, and even when well struck failed to trouble the keepers. Nick Kalmar was bundled over by Tiago Calvano but unlike his free kick two weeks ago this one was safely grabbed by Vedran Janjetovic even though it was curved around the wall. Alessandro del Piero had one good shot from outside the area, but Andrew Redmayne was alert and held it reasonably comfortably. When the Heart keeper came out to punch an effort by Joel Griffiths he only knocked it to the Italian star who attempted to lob him but the ball drifted wide.
Heart then made what turned out to be a decisive break in the 31st minute. Richard Garcia knocked a ball over the defence where it was headed back by David Williams via Jonathan Germano who set up Nick Kalmar and the big midfielder controlled it before beating Vedran Janjetovic. That enlivened what had been a soporofic opening spell according to some watchers.
Only five minutes later Heart doubled its advantage. David Vrankovic sent a through ball forward in the direction of Eli Babalj who neatly deflected it into the path of Jonathan Germano. Germano still had to make ground before firing his shot past Janjetovic. Germano was booked for pulling his shirt over his head in celebration of what had been an excellent and uplifting goal. Heart had a nother couple of good chances late in the first half, but that ended just after del Piero found Brett Emerton in the clear, but the Socceroo midfielder headed over.
At half-time Frank Farina took off Paul Reid and brought on Joel Chianese as Sydney tried to chase the game. However it was Heart which got the next goal.
Eight minutes into the second half, David Williams outstripped the defence and Sebastian Ryall barrelled into him inside the penalty area as Janjetovic came out to block. It was a clear penalty but referee Alan Milliner added a red card to Ryall for denying the initial goalscoring opportunity. Williams took the penalty and sent the keeper the wrong way.
Three minutes later Joel Griffiths gave his side a glimmer of hope by turning David Vrankovic on the edge of the Heart penalty area before burying the ball past Andrew Redmayne. The ten men of Sydney kept trying to find another opening, but Heart played the ball around reasonably well in the heat and sprang a number of quick breaks against an undermanned and tiring defence. Even defender Jeremy Walker got into a shooting position after a typical rapid support run but his final shot was straight at the keeper. When Heart continued to miss opportunities to score Sydney had a chance of putting real pressure on them with a second goal, but they also missed the fewer chances they managed to create. Andrew Redmayne collected Jamie Coyneβs boot in his face after the two scrambled to keep out del Piero, so there were four minutes of extra time added on by the referee, but Heart kept the door closed until that was played out.
Frank Farina thought his team was flat from the start, though he could not put his finger on a specific reason why that should be after a longer week between games. John Aloisi was understandably delighted with the all round effort and sees no reason why Heart cannot end its poor away record even though the match against the Phoenix will be played well down the South Island of New Zealand in Dunedin next week.
Sunday 24 February
Melbourne Heart FC 3 (Nick Kalmar 31β, Jonathan Germano 35β, David Williams 54β) Sydney FC 1 (Joel Griffiths 58β)
Venue: AAMI Park
Kick off: 5:00 PM
Referee: Alan Milliner
Assistant referees: Luke Brennan and Jonathan Barreiro
Fourth official: Shaun Evans
20. Andrew Redmayne, 4. Simon Colosimo, 8. Matthew Thompson, 11. Richard Garcia, 13. Jonatan Germano (16. Marcel Meeuwis 82β), 15. David Williams, 17. Jason Hoffman, 18. David Vrankovic, 21. Jamie Coyne, 22. Nick Kalmar (5.Fred 66β), 25. Jeremy Walker, 36. Eli Babalj (14. Golgol Mebrahtu 72β)
Unused substitutes: 1.Clint Bolton,
Yellow cards: Jonathan Germano 35β, David Williams 90 + 2β
Red cards: Nil
20. Vedran Janjetovic, 2. Sebastian Ryall, 3. Fabio, 7. Brett Emerton, 9. Paul Reid (17. Terry Antonis 46β), 10. Alessandro Del Piero, 13. Tiago Calvano, 23. Rhyan Grant, 26. Peter Triantis, 29. Joel Griffiths (16. Joel Chianese 66β), 32. Lucas Neill.
Unused substitutes: 1. Ivan Necevski, 8. Adam Griffiths.
Yellow cards: Paul Reid 33β, Joel Griffiths 47β, Tiago Calvano 70β
Red cards: Sebastian Ryall 54β