Hyundai A-League Season 6

Heart keep hopes alive
By Alan Clark

A-League 2010/2011 - Round 21
5pm, Sunday 2 January, 2011
at Melbourne Football Stadium

Melbourne Heart FC 2

(John Aloisi 58', Gerald Sibon 83')
North Queensland Fury FC 0

(Linked from FFA web site)

Melbourne Heart kept alive its play-off hopes with a two-nil win over North Queensland Fury at the Melbourne Football Stadium on Sunday evening.

John Aloisi and Gerald Sibon netted second-half goals in a game Heart always looked to have the better of, and its margin of victory could have been more but for profligate finishing in the many first-half chances it had created.

Heart has speed and youthful exuberance to burn down its flanks, with Michael Marrone and Adrian Zahra combining effectively, taking it in turns to torment the Fury left, and Aziz Behich performing a similar role on the other wing. It was a clever piece of Marrone work which led to Aloisi's goal, and Behich both set up opportunities as well as grabbed a few direct of his own.

North Queensland Fury looked to have defended capably enough in the first period to give it confidence that the same could be managed in the second, but that reckoned without the endless work of the three Heart energy-burners, as well as the effective introduction off the bench of Alex Terra, who added to the Fury defensive load, and Sibon, whose height posed another series of difficult problems for the visitors.

Fury did create some opportunities of its own, and by the first half's midpoint, may well have netted itself. David Williams, an energetic ground-coverer himself launched himself bravely at a loose ball Heart goalkeeper Clint Bolton should perhaps have been more committed to gathering, only to send his touch narrowly wide of the post.

And Chris Payne, whose influence became marginal as the game progressed, hampered as he clearly was by an upper leg injury, might have been more positive as he cut inside into a shooting position, but ineffectively laid-off to Williams rather than take advantage himself of the shooting opportunity his run had created.

But immediately after this, Heart set up a pitch-long attack of its own from which a goal would have been an appropriate reward. Bolton released quickly to Josip Skoko just inside his own half. With a feint, he had comprehensively wrong-footed Brad McDonald, and now with space and time he was able to see the run of Aloisi to his left. As Aloisi ran to collect Skoko's inch-perfect pass, the Fury defence had been carved asunder, allowing Aloisi to make ground up the wing, then pick out his cross.

It was to Zahra at the edge of the Fury penalty-area and so perfectly-struck, Zahra had ample chance to see Skoko's run and nod the ball down into the veteran midfielder's stride. Skoko's shot required the best of Fury goalkeeper Justin Pasfield to keep Heart out.

And in first-half added-time Zahra set up another Heart chance, this time when he'd out-muscled Ufuk Talay at the half-way line, wide on the right, allowing him to pick out Nick Kalmar. Skoko was awaiting Kalmar's pass inside and shot towards the top right corner. Pasfield brought out an excellent diving save to send the ball wide for a corner.

The danger had not passed, as Fury failed to deal with the corner. As it bobbled about inside the penalty-area, eventually it fell to Aloisi about eight yards out. Only a desperate block by Mark Hughes protected the goal, but there was still peril as it fell Behich's way at the edge of the area. Behich's drove his shot narrowly over to Fury's evident relief.

Within minutes of the re-start, Terra had been brought on for Rutger Worm, and took up a place as a central striker. It was this change which proved to be the pivot for Heart.

Fury now seemed spent, and looked to be in damage control from then on. Too many players looked under-engaged and wilted before the Heart onslaught.

It was inevitable that Heart would convert, and it was Marrone who set up the opener just before the hour, bustling down the right and out-fighting McDonald along the way, and then finding Aloisi at the near-post. That Aloisi was able to occupy such a position in the exact middle of a tight triangle of Fury defenders: Hughes, Gareth Edds, and Ramazan Tavsancioglu, none of whom who could reach the ball or put pressure on Aloisi is clear evidence of his big-game experience. His first-time shot which sent the ball whistling by Pasfield at his near-post was evidence of his effective employment of that experience.

As the ball hit the net, Sibon was waiting along the touchline for his introduction to the contest as a replacement for Kalmar. That change put the final piece in place for Heart's dominance for the remaining half-hour.

Fury was now obviously on the ropes, and Payne could offer nothing to occupy the Heart defence, which now pressed and provided the avenue for Heart's total control from that point on.

Not long after stepping onto the field, Sibon stepped up to a free-kick about 25 yards from goal, and in a position from which he had previously converted this season. Pasfield was alert to the danger however, and made a fine save. Shortly after, and from a similar range, Sibon sent another free-kick goalwards, this time striking the side-netting after it had curved in its flight, and causing many in the stadium to believe it had found the net's inner, rather than outer surface.

He was to be denied no further as with just seven minutes remaining, and Fury's defensive workload now overly-onerous. Sibon jumped high over Hughes to head in a well-struck cross from the left by Matthew Thompson.

It was enough to confirm a well-merited home win, and keep Heart in the Finals hunt.

A-League 2010/2011 - Round 21
5pm, Sunday 2 January, 2011
at Melbourne Football Stadium

Melbourne Heart FC 2

(John Aloisi 58', Gerald Sibon 83')
North Queensland Fury FC 0

    Crowd: 6,482


    Melbourne Heart FC :
    Player listing:
    (4-3-2-1) 1. Clint Bolton (gk), 2. Michael Morrone, 4. Simon Colosimo (c), 6. Matt Thompson, 24. Aziz Behich, 22. Nick Kalmar (9. Gerald Sibon +59'), 10. Wayne Srhoj, 20. Josip Skoko, 25. Adrian Zahra, 7. Rutger Worm (11. Alex Terra +52'), 15. John Aloisi (5. Michael Beauchamp +76').

    Substitutes not used: 12 Peter Zois (rgk)

    Coach: John van't Schip

    Yellow Cards: Nil
    Red Cards: Nil

    North Queensland Fury FC :
    Player listing:
    (4-3-2-1) 1. Justin Pasfield (gk), 14. Chris Grossman, 5. Mark Hughes, 24. Ramazan Tavsancioglu, 13 Andre Kilian (2. Jack Hingert +75'), 12 Panagiotis Nikas (21. Jason Spagnuolo +71'), 6. Ufuk Talay (c) (8. Adam Casey +57'), 7. Gareth Edds, 11. David Williams, 3. Brad McDonald, 15. Chris Payne.

    Substitutes not used: 28. Sebastian Usai (rgk)

    Coach: Frank Straka

    Yellow Cards: Mark Hughes 90'+4
    Red Cards: Nil

    Referee: Peter Green
    AR1: Shaun Evans, AR2: James Nicolopoulos; Fourth Official: Lucien Laverdure

    Pitch rating: 8/10

    Game rating: 7/10

    BOTN Player Points :

    3. Aziz Behich (Melbourne Heart)
    2. Josip Skoko (Melbourne Heart)
    1. Adrian Zahra (Melbourne Heart)

    Match Report by Alan Clark

Disclaimer: The content of this report is the responsibility of the writer. Stats are either as recorded by the writer at the game, or as supplied by FFA, or a mixture - no responsibility can be taken for their compete accuracy although we do strive for that. Any photos used here, unless attributed, are as supplied by FFA and used by permission.

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