Heart Finally Reigns In Morwell


Top-flight football returned to the LaTrobe City Stadium for first time in 10 years on Sunday, and it was Melbourne Heart who took the honours, with a 1-0 win over Wellington Phoenix.

Top-flight football returned to the LaTrobe City Stadium for first time in 10 years on Sunday, and it was Melbourne Heart who took the honours, with a 1-0 win over Wellington Phoenix.

Former Melbourne Victory man Mate Dugandzic scored the winning goal for Heart four minutes before half-time in Morwell, netting on the rebound after Rutger Worm’s shot hit the post.

Wellington Phoenix will feel aggrieved they are not returning across the Tasman with at least a point.

Indeed, Ricky Herbert’s visitors had enough chances to equalise and win the match twice over in the final 20 minutes.

But Heart somehow held out, and climb into the top six on the A-League table courtesy of their third win of the season.

Wellington had started the stronger of the two teams, and it was their star man Paul Ifill who enjoyed the first sight of goal.

Left winger Leo Bertos delivered from wide three minutes in.

Ifill controlled, before smashing a half volley across the face of goal, forcing Clint Bolton to tip the ball over the bar.

On 11 minutes Chris Greenacre held off Brendan Hamill, but his cutback across the six yard box was cleared.

Greenacre also gathered an Ifill pass and dribbled past two men with intent, only to lose control before he was able to shoot.

Slowly, Heart gained control of possession, and begin to exert themselves on the contest.

Eli Babalj, making his first start for Heart, showed intent with a well-timed flick to beat Andrew Durante on 16 mins, but he was unable to force a path to goal.

Worm had Heart’s first real chance in the 20th minute, collecting Dugandzic’s cross at the back post and firing just wide of the target

At the other end, Ifill failed to connect after Bertos again got in behind.

There were half-hearted appeals for a penalty when Jonathan Germano appeared to block Nick Ward’s pass with the hand.

They would prove to be Wellington’s last opportunities of the half, and it was all Heart for the final 15 minutes.

Worm went close again for Heart in the 39th minute.

Found unmarked from Dugandzic’s free kick, he could only head straight at Phoenix goalkeeper Tony Warner.

But three minutes later the Dutchman would make amends, playing his part in Heart’s opener.

Fred’s clever quick free-kick found Matt Thompson, who played Worm in behind the Wellington defence.

The former NEC man hit the post with his shot and Dugandzic was on hand to net the rebound.

Heart missed a glorious opportunity to double their lead just minutes into the second half.

Thompson found himself one-on-one with Warner, but could only hit the post with his low shot.

A lull of close to 20 minutes ensued where neither team was able to force the issue.

But they made up for it in style during the closing exchanges, when Heart should have put the result beyond doubt, while Phoenix were guilty of blowing several chances to level.

The first such moment arrived on 67 minutes, when Bertos burst into the area and delivered a pass across goal.

Adrian Madaschi sliced the ball up and onto the bar, before Ifill had his follow-up shot blocked by a charging Hamill.

Dugandzic threatened soon after for Heart, but took too long with his shot following good work by Jason Hoffman.

Substitute Hoffman then headed over himself, unmarked from Aziz Behich’s cross.

In the final 10 minutes Wellington penned Heart back inside their own half.

Mirjan Pavlovic beat several men and advanced into the box, only to see his cutback cleared.

Pavlovic’s fellow substitute Daniel Sanchez also burst beyond the back line, and it took the intervention of Hamill to prevent an equaliser.

In the 93rd minute, there was a final foray by Sanchez, who found Pavlovic inside the area.

But his tame shot was easily gathered by Bolton, and Heart survived to collect all three points.