National Youth League: Season 4 (2011 - 2012 Season)
Round 16 Review
By Zee Ko

NYL Review: 'Zac attack down AIS'
(Zee Ko was pitch side as Melbourne Heart snapped their winless streak
with victory over a hapless AIS side)

It was a happy last home game of the season as the Australian Institute of Sport turned up at John Cain to be mauled 4-0 by a trigger-happy Heart outfit. Thanks to some clinical finishing from Zac Walker, who had a hand in all four goals, the home team emerged victors at the fulltime whistle to end a wretched run of draws and defeats.

The Heart forward finished the match with three goals and an assist to further his claims for a first team spot.

It wasn't all smooth sailing however as a young AIS side ran the home team ragged in a promising early spell. After a 2-11 reverse to the Brisbane Roar the previous week, some might have expected the Academy players to just turn up and roll over, but it proved otherwise as the Heart players were the ones looking insipid and uninterested in the early going.

Captain Dusan Bosnjak had two early shots on goal from close range but Lucas Spinella was on hand both times to avert any danger and it was the visitors who soon seemed to have the upper hand in proceedings.

There were moments of flair from the AIS players as they ran rings around their static opponents. Joshua Barresi found himself marked tightly directly in front of goal and on the edge of the box in the 19th minute, but somehow managed to spin and duck past two Heart players and into the box before running into a crowd of defenders. Not to be outdone, teammate Stefan Mauk came up with a piece of footballing brilliance that almost opened accounts for his team just after the half hour mark.

Scott Galloway had just won the ball back on the left wing and seeing Mauk charging upfield, sent a ball over the top of the slowly backtracking Heart defence. With only one marker in attendance, Mauk entered the penalty area on the full and while many would have expected him to perhaps kill the ball and then beat his man, instead leapt high to first-time volley the ball towards the top corner of goal.

It was an outrageous move, and one that only failed to find the target due to some super goaltending from Nikola Roganovic, leaping high and back and toward his left to tip the ball just clear in an excellent show of his reflexes.

Barresi continued this show of dominance minutes later with a weaving run that took him past three defenders before Roganovic blocked well from his attempt. But try as they might, the visitors just could not find a way past the Heart goalkeeper and were soon left to rue their profligacy.

Zac Walker used his pace to good effect to beat his man on the counter and looked to go one on one with 'keeper Spinella. but the latter was in no mood to let him pass, showing good desperation to make a sprawling double save in a matter of split-seconds. The ball bounced around for an eternity before bobbling out to Jeremy Walker on the opposite wing.

With Spinella out of action and the goalmouth yawning, the fullback cocked his shooting foot and let loose, only for Scott Galloway to pop up and sacrifice his body for a brave block. Just as the danger seemed to have been averted, Zac Walker found himself back on the ball and floated a stupendous shot over the keeper and into the far corner of the net. It was a gorgeous goal crafted out of thin air, though perhaps only the Heart striker himself could have told you if the opening goal was pure luck or by design.

With that, the fight seemed to go out of the visitors a little as their hosts seemed to locate their bearings and slowly play their way back into the game. The period after halftime saw a rash of changes that broke up the tempo somewhat, but not before Kamal Ibrahim managed to dribble his way into the box and set the ball up just right for Zac Walker to blast high into the net and double Heart's lead.

Things were made even more difficult for the AIS after Spinella limped off and the team were forced to make a fourth substitution (allowed under NYL rules in the case of injury), bringing on Jordan Thurtell. Zac Walker himself seemed eager to find an elusive third goal and complete his hattrick, but was uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal as his composure let him down in the 72nd minute after a one-on-one chance.

It was all Heart by this stage, with Zahra and Kamal making inroads on both flanks. Then came a moment of controversy as Thurtell collected a regulation catch at the edge of his box, only to stumble out while still holding the ball. The referee rightly blew for a free kick, but surprisingly declined to show a yellow card for the offence.

Bosnjak had been anonymous for Heart since his two chances at the start of the game, and his time on the pitch came to and end after suffering an injury in the backfield. Billy Liolios returned to the pitch as Heart made their fourth substitution, but the loss of their captain didn't seem to hurt the team in the least as Zac Walker finally completed his hattrick with six minutes of regulation time left on the clock.

AIS substitute defender Jeremy Tshongo misjudged the flight of the ball as it bounced off his head awkwardly and Walker was on hand to latch on before finishing coolly past the goalkeeper. There was still time for a cute spin move from the hattrick hero in the first minute of injury time as he squared the ball to an unmarked Daniel Peluso to shoot past the goalkeeper's body and into the far corner for the fourth goal of the match.

Benjamin Garuccio had one final chance to net a consolation reply for AIS after being put clear with seconds to go, but blasted just over with just the goalkeeper to beat. The lad slammed the ground with both hands in frustration as the final whistle blew and the hosts celebrated a comprehensive win.

AIS remain only two points above bottom-placed Melbourne Victory in the NYL standings, while Heart are on 23 points in mid-table with only one game left to play.

Man of the Match: Zac Walker

There was only ever going to be one individual to claim match honours in this game, and Zac Walker deserved the plaudits. His inclusion on the plane to Hawaii means he still has to wait for a first team call-up, but if he keeps up this kind of performance, it will be hard to overlook him.

Melbourne Heart Verdict:

While the seniors benefitted from Clive Palmer's brain snap and all the controversy that surrounded a very inexperienced Gold Coast side, the youths were equally fortunate to be facing second-from-bottom AIS. They were never going to match Brisbane's 11-goal effort from the week before, but should have put the match to rest far earlier than they did. Besides Zac Walker, the other Heart players to impress were Adrian Zahra and goalkeeper Nikola Roganovic.

Australian Institute of Sport Verdict:

Shorn of some of its best players this season after they left to sign professional contracts, it looks like coach Spencer Prior is trying to get some game time into his younger players. While the team ran themselves into the ground early on as they held Heart at bay, their inexperience soon showed and it was left to Zac Walker to finish them off. There were glimpses of ability from Joshua Barresi, Scott Galloway and Stefan Mauk, while Bright Appiah promised much but didn't have much impact before being yanked at halftime.

Crowd Watch:

The stands were looking packed as a healthy number of spectators showed up. Directly across from them on the other side of the pitch, twenty or so picnic-goers enjoyed the spectacle from the shade of a huge tree. Weather conditions were as perfect as you could ever see for a game of football and probably accounted for the large turnout.

Well Spotted:

Victory Youth backup goalkeeper Marko Stevenja was with family in the stands for the match while Heart Youth defender Bradley Treloar was also spotted sulkily watching on at halftime after being left out of the squad.

By Zee Ko- match report and photos from John Cain Memorial Park, 3pm Saturday 18 February, 2012

Details: National Youth-League, Round 16:

18 Feb - 3:00pm - Melbourne Heart FC 4 - Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) 0 - John Cain Memorial Park, Thornbury
18 Feb - 4:30pm - Adelaide United FC 3 - Sydney FC 4 - Burton Park

19 Feb - 3:00pm - Brisbane Roar FC 2 - Melbourne Victory FC 1 - Cleveland Showgrounds, Cleveland
19 Feb - 4:00pm - Gold Coast United FC 3 - Central Coast Mariners FC 6 - Owen Park, Southport
19 Feb - 5:00pm - Perth Glory FC 1 - Newcastle Jets FC 0 - 6PR Stadium, Inglewood


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