Melbourne Heart have recorded a solid 2-0 win over North Queensland Fury to strengthen their finals chances in their debut season. John Aloisi's 58th minute expert finish was complimented by a late Gerald Sibon header as the Heart moved four points clear of seventh-placed Wellington Phoenix, giving themselves a much stronger chance of finishing their first A-League season in the final six.
The win is the Heart's third in a row whilst the Fury have won just one of their past seven and have almost let their season slip away.
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne Crowd: 6,482 Referee: Peter Green Yellow cards:MH - nil NQF - Mark Hughes 90+4'
Neither goalkeeper was really tested in the opening 15 or so minutes in a cagey beginning which had both sides knocking the ball around but failing to create much when pushing forward.
The Heart were shading the Fury on possession but couldn't quite make the most of it and it almost came back to bite them in the 21st minute when Chris Payne dispossessed Matt Thompson before waltzing through the defence but he was too unselfish as he attempted to find strike partner David Williams when perhaps he should have taken the shot.
The home side then produced a brilliant piece of play which deserved a goal when Josip Skoko got on the end of goalkeeper Clint Bolton's throw, skipped around his marker in central midfield and played a ball into space for John Aloisi. The veteran advanced down the left flank before finding Adrian Zahra in the area and his header teed up Skoko, who had made ground, but his shot from inside the area flew over the crossbar.
There were calls for a penalty a moment later when Aloisi again advanced on goal and as he shot was knocked down by Ramazan Tavsancioglu but referee Peter Green waved play on despite protests from some Heart players. On second glance, the contact came outside the area so maybe it wasn't as clear cut as initially thought.
There was little or no noteworthy action until injury time of the first half when Nick Kalmar laid off for Skoko after some great lead-up work by Zahra but Justin Pasfield came up with a top notch save to deny the former Socceroo midfielder's well-struck left-footer to end the opening 45 minutes on a positive note.
The second term began much the same as the first although there was a slight scare for the Heart eight minutes in when Ufuk Talay's free-kick to Adam Hughes at the back post caused plenty of confusion but the Fury were unable to make the most of it and it remained scoreless.
GOAL As the half progressed, the home side grew in stature and it proved to be beneficial when Heart right-back Michael Marrone tracked down a loose ball into the right corner before curling a pinpoint delivery to Aloisi who finished, unmarked, with aplomb with his right foot to give his side a deserved lead.
Fury left-back Andre Kilian tried his luck on an angle from the edge of the area in the 64th minute before Gareth Edds' header from a corner four minutes later just missed the target as the visitors chased the lead but it almost came to their detriment when the let the Heart in a moment later but Zahra's close range flick was knocked away by Pasfield in what was a precarious moment for the North Queenslanders.
Pasfield produced another fine save in the 74th minute when Heart substitute Gerald Sibon got his long range free-kick on target and it was again almost 2-0 when Alex Terra's front post header was slightly wide of the mark around three minutes later. Sibon had another crack from a set piece which cannoned into the side netting from 25 yards but the visitors managed to survive.
GOAL Seven minutes from time the Heart grabbed their second when Thompson directed a cross into the area from the left flank where Sibon climbed above the pack to nod home for his sixth of the season.
From then it was just a matter of holding down the fort for the final stage of the game as the Heart produced their third win in three matches against the Townsville club.
They will now prepare for their clash with Perth Glory at nib Stadium on Saturday the 15th after a week off whilst the Fury host the Newcastle Jets on the 8th which would have to be their last chance if they were to somehow sneak into the final six.
Subs - Peter Zois (gk), Alex Terra (52'), Gerald Sibon (59'), Michael Beauchamp (76')
NQFJustin Pasfield (gk), Brad McDonald, Mark Hughes, Ufuk Talay (Casey 57'), Gareth Edds, David Williams, Panny Nikas (Spagnuolo 71'), Andre Kilian (Hingert 75'), Chris Grossman, Chris Payne, Ramazan Tavsancioglu