Melbourne Heart 3 (Kalmar 31′, Germano 36′, Williams 54’pen)
Sydney FC 1 (Griffiths 58′)
Crowd: 13,752 at AAMI Park, Melbourne. 24th February 2013
On a beautiful evening for football in Melbourne, Sydney went in search of another win to remain in the top six. With several players returning from injury or suspension, and Lucas Neill included in the squad after putting pen to paper last week, Frank Farina was given a selection headache.
The old adage is “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, but with some old boys in the squad, Farina rang in the changes from last week’s winning squad.
Lucas Neill began in the centre of defence, replacing Adam Griffiths, while Paul Reid replaced an injured Terry McFlynn in the centre of the park. Inexplicably, the out of form Brett Emerton replaced last week’s goalscorer Terry Antonis, while Blake Powell made way for Joel Griffiths.
Farina has a track record of keeping ‘jobs for the boys’, and this week he did little to suggest a change in attitude. In fairness, it would be a big call to leave three Socceroos – Griffiths, Neill and Emerton – on the bench. Still, making the senior players work for their spot may have set a healthy standard.
Sydney started well enough, although without any real penetration. Lucas Neill began well in defence despite resounding boos from the crowd. The Heart created some good opportunities down the left as overlapping fullback Jeremy Walker stood out.
Indeed it was through Walker that the Heart scored first. Skipping down the wing, Walker released Richard Garcia down the left. Garcia floated a cross into the penalty area, and after Sydney failed to clear their lines, Nick Kalmar smashed the ball home after a delighful first touch to bring the ball down.
Five minutes later, the Heart were in again as Eli Babalj cushioned a perfect pass through the Sydney defence. Steaming down on goal, Jonatan Germano picked his spot and drove home from ten yards.
Two goals in a short period had Sydney reeling, and the Heart settled to control the game.
In the second half, Farina withdrew Paul Reid, bringing on Terry Antonis in the middle of the park. It mattered little, though, when David Williams was brought down in the box by Seb Ryall, who was given a red card. Sydney were a man down and behind by three goals.
It looked all over for Sydney, but they managed to pull one goal back soon after through Joel Griffiths. Recieving a smart ball from Antonis with his back to goal, Griffiths turned and smashed his shot into the top corner.
Soon after Griffiths was withdrawn as his hamstrings tightened. With Ryall out next week, Sydney will be sweating on Griffiths’ fitness.
The Heart continued to control the game, and after Golgol Mebrahtu missed two chances late in the game, the score finished 3-1. It was no less than Sydney deserved.
Next week is away to Perth. Sydney will need to capitalise on Perth’s disorganisation in order to remain in the hunt for the finals.