A resurgent Adelaide United has crushed Melbourne Heart 3-1 at AAMI Park, putting an end to Heart’s five game winning streak. Two goals by Sergio van Dijk, and a third by Dario Vidosic was enough to see Adelaide jump into the top six, a position which seemed almost unattainable a few weeks ago.
Melbourne Heart youngster Eli Babalj scored a consolation goal in extra time, giving the home fans something to cheer about in an otherwise disappointing match.
The game started brightly for Heart, who had the lion’s share of chances in the opening 20 minutes. Aziz Behich and Rutger Worm terrorized Adelaide’s defence early, however neither could get past the Red’s keeper, Eugene Galekovic.
Mate Dugandžić was unlucky to not have received a penalty in the 3rd minute, after he was brought down in the box by Francisco Usucar. Usucar did not appear to make any contact with the ball, however referee Kris Griffiths-Jones waved away the Heart protests and called play on.
The match turned in Adelaide’s favour after the half-hour mark. Their three-pronged attack consisting of Vidosic, van Dijk, and Bruce Djite began to look more and more dangerous, and Adelaide were rewarded with a penalty in the 38th minute.
Heart’s former captain, Simon Colosimo, made a rash challenge on Djite and Griffith-Jones wasted no time in pointing to the spot. Up stepped van Dijk, who made no mistake, powerfully firing home past a diving Clint Bolton.
To make matters worse for Heart, Colosimo was forced to be substituted before half-time after injuring his left knee in the tackle that bought down Djite. Early reports are that Colosimo will be out for two-three weeks.
Behich then missed a glorious chance right on the stroke of half-time after he wrong-footed Zenon Caravella and Nigel Boogard, which then left him with only Galekovic to beat. Unfortunately for Heart, Behich’s shot lacked any real venom, and Galekovic saved comfortably.
Three minutes after half-time things got even worse for Heart. Vidosic doubled United’s advantage when he slid the ball past Bolton after some beautiful build up work by Caravella and van Dijk.
With the game beginning to slip out of reach, Heart lifted their work-rate, but their wayward shooting let them down. Curtis Good, Alex Terra, and Babalj all missed easy chances. Good shot wide, Terra’s looping header drew a great save from Galekovic, and Babalj somehow managed to shoot over the crossbar from less than six-yards out.
Despite the pressure Adelaide’s defence held up, and in the 79th minute van Dijk added a third goal for the Red’s. He outmuscled Brendan Hamill, turned, and shot it into the net at Bolton’s far post.
Heart didn’t go away empty handed though. Their fans can take solace in the continued improvement of Eli Babalj. The teenager’s height and strength make him a force to be reckoned with and he has now scored 3 goals this season after his strike against Adelaide. Babalj turned Nigel Boogard easily, before making amends for his earlier blunder by shooting truly in the 91st minute.
However, it was too little too late for Heart. Adelaide United have now had a draw and two victories since John Kosmina took over the coach’s position after the forced departure of Rini Coolen. Whatever Kosmina is doing, it appears to be working, as Adelaide now look like a completely different side to what they were previously.
Paddy Naughtin is a second-year student in the Bachelor of Journalism at La Trobe University. You can follow him on Twitter: @PaddyNaughtin