Heart ground the Jets


Melbourne Heart secured just their second home victory in 12 months and first of the season with a deserved 3-0 win over the Newcastle Jets at AAMI Park on Saturday night.

Melbourne Heart secured just their second home victory in 12 months and first of the season with a deserved 3-0 win over the Newcastle Jets at AAMI Park on Saturday night.

Substitute Eli Babalj’s fine footwork in the box teed up captain Fred to score the game breaker on 66 minutes after the Heart had endured another frustrating opening to a game that included a host of missed chances.

Tarek Elrich’s horrendous back-pass on 73 minutes fell straight into the path of Mate Dugandzic who made no mistake with the finish as the Heart were finally delivered their own slice of luck.

Aziz Behich’s fine late strike will go down as an early contender for goal of the year and added the gloss for the Heart who finally look to have released the shackles in attack.

The relieving win ends the Heart’s winless start to the campaign and momentarily lifts them off the foot of the table, above Gold Coast and Wellington.

For the Jets, it was their third loss from three away matches this season, in contrast to their three home wins – a trend coach Gary van Egmond will need to reverse quickly if they are to be considered a serious contender.

The Heart’s line-up had a distinctly Brazilian flavour to it with Fred, Maycon and Alex Terra working together in attack. Behich returned to the starting 11 at left-back while Maycon resumed in the central striker’s role.

For the Jets, who were sitting pretty in second place on the ladder, Francis Jeffers and in-form New Zealand international Jeremy Brockie lead the attack with Ryan Griffiths tucking in just behind.

Both sides started promisingly, with Behich flashing a glorious chance just wide for the Heart after a marauding run down the left flank.

Within the opening five minutes a turnover in midfield allowed Jeffers in for the Jets’ first chance, with Brockie sliding him in. He blasted across keeper Clint Bolton but saw his shot blocked.

An enterprising steal from Maycon on the last line of defence ended with Hoffman after Fred’s neat little pass, but the defender’s shot was well blocked on nine minutes as the Heart pressed for the opener.

The home side were playing very high up with their central defensive pairing of Matt Thompson and Brendan Hamill exposed when the Jets broke quickly. Indeed, it was a re-jigged back four with Simon Colosimo out suspended, Hoffman deputised with Hamill switching to the heart of defence.

Within five minutes of the half Newcastle had a penalty claim waved away when Jeffers had his shirt tugged. The Heart broke quickly through Terra who squared the ball to Hoffman, but unfortunately for the Heart it was a case of wrong man, right place, as he again missed the target.

Luck hasn’t been on the Heart’s side of late, surrendering two leads in their past couple of drawn matches to Adelaide and Sydney, while they were desperately unlucky to share the points with rivals Victory in Round 3.

And, despite Newcastle creating little at the other end, the Heart’s winless start to the season threatened to continue with a lack of cutting edge in the final third riddling the side again.

Hamill’s flicked ball across the box on 48 minutes was perfectly placed but no one was there to tap home what would have been an easy chance.

Melbourne continued to flood forward in numbers with Hoffman’s fierce strike from outside the box saved well by Ben Kennedy, while Dugandzic’s superb, curling strike was glanced just over by the young keeper before the hour mark.

It took until after the hour mark but the Heart finally got the opener through Fred. Just 12 minutes after coming on Babalj weaved his way through three defenders to square for the captain to tuck home a relatively straight-forward finish.

Dugandzic was on hand seven minutes later and made Elrich pay for a very lazy backpass before Behich delighted the home crowd.

The winger’s weaving run left Ben Kantarovski in his wake and as he cut in from the left Behich still had a lot to do however, his curling shot dipped just over a helpless Kennedy and into the top right.

Melbourne Heart: 3 (Fred 66, Dugandzic 73, Behich 85)
Newcastle Jets: 0
Crowd: 5914 at AAMI Park