Heart too good for AIS

Melbourne Heart moved into second place on the National Youth League ladder with a 3-1 victory over the AIS in overcast conditions in Canberra.

Melbourne Heart moved into second place on the National Youth League ladder with a 3-1 victory over the AIS in overcast conditions in Canberra.

The Heart were made to fight all the way by the AIS, who had chances to nab something from the match but ended up with nothing.

The Heart created the first opening of the match as Evan Batsis got free in the right channel and sent in a fiercely driven cross that Joshua Groenewald, arriving unmarked inside the six-yard box, could only head over the crossbar from close range.

At the other end Todd Norris had a similar chance after a penetrating run and cross by Scott Galloway, but he too failed to hit the target and work the goalkeeper.

Groenewald was causing problems with his darting runs from deep and he should have done better than shoot tamely at Jordan Thurtell in the AIS goal when receiving a cut-back at the top of the penalty area midway through the half.

Almost immediately the AIS had a great chance to open the scoring as Steve Kuzmanovski, upon his return from injury, saw a shot deflected wide as he played a neat one-two with Joshua Barresi to find space for the effort.

A midfield battle ensued with slim pickings on offer for the respective forward lines, with both teams restricted to trying their luck from range.

Heart did finally find a way through the AIS defence in the 36th minute but Thurtell was quickly off his line to thwart Nicholas Epifano who looked certain to score.

It mattered little though as Melbourne took the lead sixty seconds later. Ben Garuccio got on the end of a cross at the back post to thump a shot into the top corner.

Epifano should have doubled the lead in the 42nd minute but, on the stretch, turned his shot against the post from a metre out with Thurtell stranded as the AIS held on to head into the changing rooms only one goal adrift at the interval.

The Heart continued to use some intricate build-up play to good effect in the second stanza and only a superb sliding challenge by Jeremy Tshongo denied them a second goal after some one-touch passing sliced through the home rear guard. The AIS slowly clawed their way back into the game and Alexander Gersbach made sure that Christopher Maynard was on his toes in the Melbourne goal with a low drive that the ‘keeper saved to his left.

The usual raft of substitutions took place around the 60th minute with Marc Marino and Jordan Pudler making their AIS debuts from the bench. Heart’s changes bore almost immediate fruit as they doubled their lead with twenty minutes remaining. A corner saw a goalmouth scramble end with the ball crashing back off the crossbar and bouncing down for Groenewald to dive in amongst the flying feet and nod it over the line.

Undaunted, the AIS bounced right back and a threaded pass from Pudler found Liam Rose goal-side of his marker and he showed ample composure to pick his spot and slide a shot past the advancing Maynard to get his team back into the match.

However their route back was curtailed within two minutes as Epifano, who had spurned two gilt-edged chances earlier, made amends by clinically finishing when left free on goal.

The AIS had a golden opportunity to reduce the arrears and set up a grandstand finale with six minutes to play as Maynard brought down Norris in the area. Galloway struck his kick well but Maynard guessed correctly and dived to his left to push the ball to safety and, with that, went the AIS’s chances of rescuing a point.

AIS 1 (Rose 73)
Melbourne Heart 3 (Garuccio 37, Groenewald 70, Epifano 75)

AIS: 1. Jordan Thurtell, 4. Benjamin Warland (2. Darcy Madden 49′), 5. Matthew Schmidt, 6. Matthew Ntoumenopoulos, 7. Steve Kuzmanovski, 8. Joshua Barresi (16. Jordan Pudler 54′), 9. Todd Norris, 13. Jeremy Tshongo, 15. Scott Galloway, 18. Alexander Gersbach (11. Marc Marino 60′), 22. Liam Rose
Melbourne Heart: 1. Christopher Maynard (16. Alistair Bray 61′), 2. Phillip Petreski (12. Tyler James 61′), 3. Samuel Mitchinson, 4. Andrew Mullett, 5. James Karvelis, 6. Joshua Groenewald, 8. Paulo Retre, 9. Evan Batsis (7. Zac Walker 61′), 10. Cameron Edwards, 11. Ben Garuccio (14. Andrew Cartanos 61′), 15. Nicholas Epifano

Yellow Cards: 13. Jeremy Tshongo (AIS), 6. Joshua Groenewald (Melbourne Heart)