Heart strong in dramatic derby

Underdogs Melbourne Heart have prevailed 2-1 in a derby epic at AAMI Park, upsetting Victory in their inaugural clash despite being down to ten men for the final 15 minutes.

Underdogs Melbourne Heart have prevailed 2-1 in a derby epic at AAMI Park, upsetting Victory in their inaugural clash despite being down to ten men for the final 15 minutes.

In a drama-packed match played in front of a season’s best 25,897 fans, Heart comprehensively outplayed their higher-rated opponents, taking the early lead through veteran John Aloisi before a clever piece of play from Kevin Muscat set-up Robbie Kruse for an equaliser ten minutes before half time.

But on 56 minutes, Heart regained the ascendency when a sharp low cross from Rutger Worm found Alex Terra unopposed at the back post to tap home.

Things were looking comfortable for Heart until 74 minutes when Aziz Behich, who along with Michael Marrone had been one of the best players on the park, leaned in on a tackle on Kruse and found himself with a second yellow card.

However, a disappointing Victory side, now winless in four matches, couldn’t take advantage of the extra man and slip back to sixth on the table on 11 points.

Significantly for Heart, who have had a slow start to their existence, they now find themselves also on 11 points, but in eighth place on goal difference.

Heart began the game full of energy and pace and after Aloisi had missed an earlier chance and then Rutger Worm fired straight at Victory keeper Michael Petkovic, it was no surprise when they took the lead on 10 minutes.

Wayne Shroj set Terra free down the right and the Brazilian hit a looping cross for Aloisi to head home from close range.

It wouldn’t be the last time Heart would find joy down the right-hand side as they cut Victory’s defence open several times down that side of the park.

Victory had a couple of half chances, including an audacious attempt from Ricardinho which floated wide, but it was Heart who were dominating, with Behich as impressive on the left as Marrone was on the right.

Josip Skoko’s free kick forced a hurried clearance from Surat Sukha, while Aloisi was unlucky not to have a brace after a clever flick-on hitt the upright

It was a typically intelligent Victory goal which got them back in the game. Victory won a free kick on the right and while Heart were readying themselves, Muscat took it quickly, allowing Kruse to slip in and beat Clint Bolton from close range.

While the scores were level, Ernie Merrick clearly wasn’t happy with the performance and sent on Grant Brebner for Leigh Broxham. Meanwhile, Muscat and Aloisi joined and Adrian Leijer in the book late in the half as the derby tensions began to rise.

Behich was the next in the book before Heart re-took the lead when Worm was again afforded too much space on the right. With Sukha still struggling with injury, Terra broke free and finished well to make it 2-1.

Victory were then afforded two clear chances to grab a point. On 69 minutes, substitute Geoff Kellaway was put through one-on-one with Bolton but Marrone intervened to save the day. A minute later a cross from Leijer found Hernandez with a free header from a metre out, but the ball went over the top.

Then Behich slid in on Kruse and found himself with an early shower and his team-mates facing a 16-minute period with 10 men. But it was Heart who could have extended their lead with a very worthy-looking penalty shout turned down soon after.

There were a few late murmurs for Heart, with Victory having a number of half chances, but the underdogs held on for a stirring success.

Melbourne Heart 2 (Aloisi 10, Terra 56)
Melbourne Victory 1 (Kruse 37)
Crowd: 25,897 at AAMI Park