Heart too strong for Sydney FC
Melbourne Heart have moved up to fifth place with a 3-1 victory over a lacklustre Sydney FC at AAMI Park on Sunday evening.
Nick Kalmar and Jonatan Germano put the hosts two up before half time and when Sebastian Ryall conceded a penalty and was sent off early in the second half for denying Heart a clear goal-scoring chance, the match was as good as over.
David Williams stepped up to convert the spot kick and although Joel Griffiths pulled one goal back for Sydney, Heart were firmly in control and fully deserved the three points.
The victory was Heart's fifth straight at their home ground and sees them leapfrog their opponents into the fifth place on the table, while Sydney drop out of the top six on goal difference.
Qantas Socceroos captain Lucas Neill, who was making his debut for the Sky Blues, was jeered every time he touched the ball by the majority of 13,752 in attendance, but still put in a solid performance in the heart of the Sydney defence.
Alessandro Del Piero showed flashes of his brilliance, but didn't see much of the ball, much to the disappointment of the extra numbers that turned out to see the Italian superstar in action.
Neither side made much of an impression in the opening stages with the stifling conditions perhaps contributing to the slow tempo of the match.
It was left to youngster Jeremy Walker and veteran Richard Garcia to carve out the chance for the opening goal of the game with some fine work down the right flank just after the half-hour mark.
After a clever run towards the penalty box, Walker dished out to Garcia, who crossed towards the far post. Williams won the header and the ball fell to Germano, who flicked it onto Kalmar and the attacker finished superbly in the bottom corner.
The goal livened up the contest and after Paul Reid was booked for a cynical challenge on Garcia, the Heart doubled their advantage.
David Vrankovic's pass forward to Eli Babalj was expertly flicked into space for Germano to run onto and finish with aplomb into the far corner.
The hosts almost made it three just minutes later when a cracking Williams back heel put Babalj in space, but the former Red Star Belgrade marksman failed to beat Vedran Janjetovic at his near post.
The Sky Blues lifted their intensity after the break and enjoyed the majority of the early possession, but the game was as good as over 10 minutes into the second half.
Kalmar played a superb pass to Williams, who expertly got the ball under control and charged towards goal, but just as he was about to unleash his shot, Ryall brought him down.
Referee Alan Milliner had no choice but to show the Sydney defender a straight red card and award Heart a penalty kick.
Williams stepped up to take the spot kick and sent the keeper wrong way to virtually end the match as a contest.
Sydney weren't giving up though and Griffiths got his side on the scoreboard with a goal out of nothing. With the ball bobbling around in the penalty area, Griffiths unleashed a cracking shot on the turn that found the top right corner.
The Sky Blues continued to push numbers forward in the hope of getting something from the match, but failed to seriously test Heart goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne.
Walker had a glorious chance to get his name on the scoresheet in the closing stages, but after being played through by substitute Golgol Mebrahtu, his shot was well saved by Janjetovic.
Bet365.com Man of the Match: Nick Kalmar He was only on the field for an hour but Kalmar was at the heart of all Melbourne's attacking play.
Melbourne Heart 3 (Kalmar 31, Germano 36, Williams 54pen)
Sydney 1 (Griffiths 58)
Crowd: 13,752 at AAMI Park