The Melbourne Heart were fairly dominant against Sydney FC in the first 70 minutes on Sunday afternoon holding a 1-0 lead, but the Sky Blues stole all three points in stoppage-time with a 2-1 win which was the result of Heart’s own downfall.
In the first 70 minutes or so the Heart were comfortable on the ball in midfield as Jonathan Germano and Matt Thompson were strong in the middle of the park, while Patrick Gerhardt and Simon Colosimo continued their great partnership with a solid performance at the back as Sydney rarely threatened Andrew Redmayne’s goal.
The solid defence didn’t just stop with Gerhardt and Colosimo. Teenager Jeremy Walker was superb for the majority of the game at right back in just his third A-League match, while on the left Aziz Behich restricted Fabio from pushing up the left flank.
However John Aloisi’s side didn’t trouble Vedran Janjetovic in goals for Sydney either. Richard Garcia (Heart’s goalscorer) and Fred both had chances early in the second-half and if just one of those were finished off there would be no contest. In fact the Heart would have been in the top five instead of in seventh place.
As the Sky Blues pushed to gain at least a point, the Red and White dropped deeper and deeper inviting pressure onto their own back four as Yairo Yau and Alessandro Del Piero (who actually had a poor game) could sense at least a point.
Surprisingly Sydney Skipper Terry McFlynn was one of Sydney’s sparks, which was required after a lacklustre opening 70 minutes. The Northern Irishman’s direct lofted balls over the Heart defence forced the visitors to drop off.
Credit to the hosts who were determined to fight back and collect back-to-back home wins for the first time this season, whilst the hopeful thirteen thousand at Allianz Stadium pushed their side on until the final whistle.
With the enormous amounts of pressure the Heart struggled to defend properly incurring basic errors.
And it was the aforementioned McFlynn who brilliantly found Brett Emerton at the back post, before the Socceroo deceived Behich and Colosimo, beat Germano to the ball and finished through Redmayne with five minutes left of regulation time.
The schoolboy defending doesn’t stop there as Rhyan Grant’s winner in stoppage-time was far too easy for Sydney as Grant was found unmarked six yards out, before directing his header into the bottom corner. Not only there was no marking from anyone in Red and White, Grant is only 174cm. The utility was one of the shortest players on the pitch.
The poor last twenty minutes actually coincides with Aloisi’s three substitutions. Heart Captain Fred was forced off with cramp on 72 minutes and Stefan Mauk came on making his A-League debut. Jason Hoffman and Dylan Macallister also made their way on for Nick Kalmar and Josip Tadic in the 77th. Mauk, a rising star signed from the AIS, struggled in midfield, while Hoffman and Macallister were rarely involved.
Aloisi has reiterated numerous times over the past couple of weeks his side needs to win ugly and stay switched on for the ninety, which is obviously one of their main problems after giving points away against Wellington in December and Newcastle in November.
But after the Sydney defeat the former Socceroo found another reason.
“The players get a bit anxious because we’ve conceded quite late in games and they stop doing what they were doing well,” Aloisi told the Daily Telegraph.
The former Socceroo has got a point. In the first 70 minutes or they stuck to their job and controlled the game, but as the Red and White stopped playing they let the Sky Blues back into the game. And of course a set of players would be anxious after conceding too many late goals in the past.
Aloisi recognizes the problems at hand. It’s just a matter of fixing those, which would be a huge test of his managerial abilities for such an experienced coach.
Heart’s job doesn’t get any easier with Adelaide United next up on Friday night at AAMI Park with the Reds back on form after a great win over Perth.