A Labinot Haliti double and a late Iacopo La Rocca strike further dented Melbourne Heart FC’s finals hopes at AAMI Park this evening as Western Sydney Wanderers claimed a 3-1 win in Heart’s final home game of the season.
A Labinot Haliti double and a late Iacopo La Rocca strike further dented Melbourne Heart FC-s finals hopes at AAMI Park this evening as Western Sydney Wanderers claimed a 3-1 win in Heart-s final home game of the season.
Haliti struck the opener in the 29th minute for the Hyundai A-League leaders, before a rocket from Golgol Mebrahtu levelled the tie ten minutes later.
Heart had the Wanderers on the back foot late in the first half as Richard Garcia-s header was rubbed out for offside, but the Wanderers regained the upper hand as Haliti gave the visitors the advantage on the hour mark.
The home side finished with 10 men as Simon Colosimo received his marching orders and La Rocca killed off any hopes of a Red and White equaliser with a third for the visitors two minutes from time.
Heart remain in the finals hunt just four points adrift of fifth-placed Newcastle Jets, but require six points on the road in their final two matches, against Brisbane Roar and Central Coast Mariners, respectively, and will need other results to go their way to have hope of securing a top-six berth.
On the back of a 2-0 loss against Adelaide United on Monday, Heart faced the daunting task of halting a Wanderers juggernaut aiming for a record-breaking tenth consecutive victory.
Head Coach John Aloisi made five changes to his starting line-up from the match just five days prior, with Jamie Coyne and Eli Babalj omitted and Marcel Meeuwis and David Williams relegated to the bench.
Captain Fred made his first start in four matches, while Jonatan Germano, Patrick Gerhardt and Sam Mitchinson came into the starting line-up.
From the outset, Heart looked a changed team not only on paper, but in effort.
They had to survive an early scare as Nikolai Topor-Stanley struck the side-netting with a header from Aaron Mooy-s set piece, but the Red and White-s attack on the ball was energetic and the home side soon threatened as Mebrahtu curled a free-kick on target.
However, the Wanderers soaked up the early pressure and struck the opener after a sweeping move down the left as Mark Bridge crossed and Haliti curled home the opener off the post.
Heart rode further pressure from the Wanderers and defended gallantly as Gerhardt first chimed in with a perfectly-timed challenge to deny Hersi, then produced a crucial block as Bridge attempted to write his name onto the score sheet.
Those efforts from Heart-s Liberian centre-back proved vital for Heart-s chances when Mebrahtu cut inside from the left and slammed home a sensational strike into the corner to equalise in the 39th minute.
Heart were unlucky not to snatch the lead just before the break as Mebrahtu-s free-kick was turned home by Garcia, but Josip Tadic was deemed to be offside and interfering with play.
The home side turned the screw in the first 10 minutes of the second half, winning three corners in quick succession to put the Wanderers on the back foot.
But the game swung back in Wanderers- favour as another surging run from Bridge set up La Rocca, who fed Haliti for the second on the hour mark.
Heart then lost Colosimo as he picked up two yellow cards in quick succession – in the 75th and 79th minutes for two fouls on substitute Dino Kresigner – and Aloisi-s men fought tooth and nail to deflect wave after wave of West Sydney attacks.
Keeper Andrew Redmayne put in a valiant effort and pulled off a number of saves to deny Kresigner and Hersi, but the final blow came in the 88th minute as La Rocca drove home the game-s third and final goal.
Melbourne Heart FC 1(Golgol Mebrahtu 39-)
Western Sydney Wanderers 3 (Labinot Haliti 29-, 60-, Iacopo La Rocca 88-)
Referee: Ben Williams
Crowd: 6, 101
Melbourne Heart FC line-up: 20. Andrew Redmayne (GK), 4. Simon Colosimo, 5. Fred (22. Nicholas Kalmar 75-), 6. Patrick Gerhardt, 8. Matt Thompson, 10. Josip Tadic, 11. 13. Jonatan Germano, 14. Golgol Mebrahtu, 24. Samuel Mitchinson, 25. Jeremy Walker (15. David Williams 66-)
Substitutes not used: 1. Clint Bolton (GK), 16. Marcel Meeuwis,
Yellow: Patrick Gerhardt 44-, Simon Colosimo 75-, 79-
Red: Colosimo 79-
Western Sydney Wanderers FC line-up: 1. Ante Covic (GK), 3. Adam D-Apuzzo, 4. Nikolai Topor-stanley, 5. Michael Beauchamp, 6. Jerome Polenz (2. Shannon Cole 29-), 7. Labinot Haliti (23. Jason Trifiro 88-), 8. Mateo Poljak, 10. Aaron Mooy (9. Dino Kresinger 71-), 17. Youssouf, 18. Iacopo La Rocca, 19. Mark Bridge
Substitutes not used: 20. Jerrad Tyson (GK)
Yellow: Poljak 42-, D-Apuzzo 58-, Hersi 82-