A goal in each half was enough to give Adelaide United its first away win in almost four months and see off Melbourne Heart 2-0 in front of a poor AAMI Park crowd of 5393 on Monday night.
The 7.30pm kick-off on a public holiday for a team that struggles to attract big gates outside of the derbies against Melbourne Victory is something the FFA might want to reconsider – even if both sides had requested the fixture.
The win cements Adelaide’s place in the top four and the Reds are certain to now host a home final.
Heart, which hosts Premiers Plate-elect Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday, now has a mountain to climb if it is to make the play-offs for the second season in succession.
That only one goal separated these sides at the interval was something of a surprise, given the open nature of the game.
That Heart had to be adventurous was a given. With Sydney and Perth both having won earlier in the round and Brisbane picking up a point, the red and whites had slumped to second-last on the table when this game began.
Still, such is the congestion in the lower half of the table with five of the six clubs scrambling for the final two spots in the play-offs, the home side also knew a win would lift it above Sydney and Newcastle into fifth position.
Heart coach John Aloisi raised plenty of eyebrows with his starting line-up. First-choice centre-back Patrick Gerhardt was left out, with Aloisi preferring to recall teenage centre-half David Vrankovic. Eli Babalj, a regular since his return from an unhappy six months in Serbia, was another to face the axe. He was relegated to the bench to make way for a fit-again Josip Tadic.
Skipper Fred was also left on the sidelines, with Nick Kalmar’s good form continuing to earn him a starting berth. But at least the Brazilian had a part to play. His South American compatriot, Jonathan Germano, usually in the heart of midfield, was not even in the match-day squad.
Aloisi may have had one eye on the fixture against the Wanderers, but he has always insisted he has full confidence in any of his players to do a job when required. And for much of the opening 45 minutes they did in a contest where both sides tried to take the game to their opponents.
The visitors almost broke the deadlock in the second minute from a terrific long-range strike by young striker Tomi Juric.
Kalmar has been in rare touch and weighed in with some important goals from midfield. Alas for him and Heart, his touch deserted him in this game, and he failed to convert three good opportunities in almost as many minutes before the quarter-hour mark.
The Reds struck the woodwork for the second time when Dario Vidosic’s drive hit the bar with goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne beaten. But it wasn’t long before the Socceroo midfielder put his side in front from what looked like a soft penalty after Jeremy Walker challenged Carrusco and was judged to have caught him high by referee Chris Beath.
The Reds were always going to be dangerous on the counter once they got their noses in front, and it was not a shock when they doubled the advantage in the 53rd minute after Iain Ramsay found himself in space in the penalty area and shot past Redmayne.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.