Babalj wins a tight one for Melbourne Heart

Melbourne Heart 1 Gold Coast United 0

Roy Hay

A late goal by substitute Eli Babalj gave Melbourne Heart a vital win in its attempt to retain its position in the top six of the A-League.

Inspirational skipper Fred made his return for Heart in the match against Gold Coast United on Friday night at AAMI Park.

Mike Mulvey replaced the suspended Miron Bleiberg as coach of the visitors and young Mitch Cooper captained the team on his debut.

Heart and Gold Coast line-up before the game.

In front of a crowd of just under 5,000 the first half was disappointing in terms of skills and cohesion. Perhaps both sides were nervous, Heart because it desperately need to win, and Gold Coast’s youngsters as they tried to come to terms with the step up from the youth league where the majority of them have been playing until very recently.

Simon Colosimo prepares to start another attack.

Passing moves continually broke down and between them the two teams had two shots on target and it appeared that if a goal was to come it would have to be the result of a mistake.

Gold Coast started with a flurry with Golgol Mebrahtu and Ben Halloran prominent.

Craig Goodwin had a shot which took a deflection before falling to keeper Jerrad Tyson.

Paul Reid replaced Jonaton Germano at half-time as John van’t Schip looked to stiffen the midfield and provide more support for Fred and David Williams..

But it was Gold Coast which had a good opening in 47 minutes when Chris Harold crossed only for Mebrahtu to shank the ball wide.

Van’t Schip made a critical substitution when he brought on Eli Babalj for Alex Terra in 56 minutes.

The big lad gave a focal point to the attack and his close control in and around the box had the Gold Coast defenders in knots.

The decisive goal came in the 79th minute. Joshua Brillante gave the ball away to David Williams who found Fred clear on the edge of the area. The skipper chipped the ball across goal and Matt Thompson cut it back from the bye-line for Eli Babalj to finish from inside the goal area.

The Gold Coast youngsters ran themselves into the ground and collapsed at the final whistle.

Zach Anderson said afterwards it was a mixture of exhaustion and disappointment at not taking something from the game, for they had given their all.

John van’t Schip said the three points were most important, and defended the performance which he said, was ‘Not bad at all.’ His players kept going when they did not get immediate results and were switched on at the end when defending their narrow lead.

Mike Mulvey praised his young charges and said it was a respectable performance by them. ‘We lost, but we did so by trying to play the right way so we gave a good account of ourselves.’ He said the club was determined to continue promoting youth and this was the outcome of a strategy put in place when it was founded. Now the players were showing the benefit of the chances they had been given. Chris Halloran, for example, now had a significant number of games under his belt and people were realising he could play a bit.

Harmony Day performers

Match details

Friday, 17 February 2012

Melbourne Heart 1 (Eli Babablj 80’) Gold Coast United 0

Venue: AAMI Park

Local kick-off: 8:00pm

Referee: Alan Milliner

Assistant referees: Shaun Evans & George Lackrindis

Fourth official: Lucian Laverdure

Attendance: 4.972

Melbourne Heart:

1.Clint Bolton, 2.Michael Marrone, 3.Brendan Hamill, 4.Simon Colosimo, 5.Fred, 7.Rutger Worm, 9.Maycon, 10.Wayne Srhoj, (6.Matt Thompson 71’),  11.Alex Terra (19.Eli Babalj 56’), 13.Jonatan Germano (26.Paul Reid 46’), 15.David Williams, 27.Craig Goodwin.

Unused substitutes: 30.Sebastian Mattei

Yellow cards: Brendan Hamill 5’; Michael Marrone 45+1’; Paul Reid 67’

Red cards: Nil

Gold Coast United:

20.Jerrad Tyson, 2.Josh Brillante, 4.Zac Anderson, 5.Kristian Rees, 7.Golgol Mebrahtu, 11.Jake Barker-Daish (21.Daniel Severino 84’), 14.Ben Halloran, 15.Adama Traore, 17.Chris Harold, 28.Daniel Bowles, 33.Mitch Cooper

Unused substitutes: 30.Brendan White, 26.Ambes Yosief, 31 Daniel Bragg

Yellow cards: Daniel Bowles 25’; Ben Halloran 75’ Chris Harold 84’

Red cards: Nil

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