A Robbie Kruse double has helped Melbourne Victory to a solid 3-1 win over derby rivals Melbourne Heart tonight. 23,059 fans turned up to watch the second Melbourne derby and the quality of the match didn't disappoint whilst the scoreline would have been well-received by a majority of people at AAMI Park.
Victory striker Robbie Kruse kept up his phenomenal strike rate this season with a opportunist's tap-in in the 12th minute before Heart struck back thanks to a superb free-kick from Gerald Sibon five minutes later for the club's first goal in six matches.
But from then on, all the scoring lay with the Victory, first through Kruse's second and then from an unattractive Adrian Leijer knock-in to allow Ernie Merrick's men to record their fifth win of the season as the Heart's campaign started slipping away.
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne Crowd: 23,059 Referee: Chris Beath Yellow cards:MH - Nick Kalmar 42', Michael Marrone 47', Adrian Zahra 69', Wayne Srhoj 90+2' MV - Billy Celeski 39', Carlos Hernandez 68', Diogo Ferreira 90+2'
In blustery conditions in Melbourne, the game started in a cagey fashion as the derby rivals worked each other out with little opportunities up forward until the 12th minute when the Victory pounced on a defensive error to open the scoring. GOAL Surat Sukha swooped on a poor touch from Heart midfielder Rutger Worm, sliding a pass through to Carlos Hernandez who played it out wide for Archie Thompson. The star striker then cut it back as he headed toward the byline - the ball falling into the path of Robbie Kruse who finished with a smart glance to grab his ninth of the season.
GOAL Five minutes later, the Heart equalized thanks to a stunning free-kick from Gerald Sibon. The big Dutchman was about 25 yards out directly in front and managed to swing his dead ball around the Victory wall and inside the right upright where goalkeeper Michael Petkovic failed to move. It was the Heart's first goal in six matches.
Victory's Thompson hit the bar from a tight angle a moment later as proceedings heated up and after a good spell from the Heart, the Victory grabbed their second, again through Kruse. GOAL This time, he directly pounced on an error from Matt Thompson in central defence, before slotting past Clint Bolton with his left foot in the 28th minute to make it 2-1 to the Victory and notch up a milestone of 10 goals for the season.
Things were looking ominous for the Heart when Hernandez let rip in the 34th minute after a good build-up but Bolton managed to get a feather touch on the swerving shot to keep his side in the contest.
The Heart pressed forward in the dying stages of the half but were unable to alter the score before referee Chris Beath blew the whistle for the break but they did send a message to their rivals that they were here for a fight.
Heart midfielder Wayne Srhoj had the first chance of the second half with a whistler from the edge of the area four minutes in which indicated the 'little brothers' were determined to restore parity and when Nick Kalmar's header from a Worm cross fell just wide of the mark, it spelt danger signs for the Victory.
But as always, the Victory hit back, first with a near chance after a strong Marvin Angulo run and pass failed to be finished by Hernandez before they made it 3-1 in the 54th minute. GOALArchie Thompson found space down the left before playing a dangerous ball into the area where an advancing Adrian Leijer bundled it in from close range under extreme duress from Srhoj.
The life was squeezed out of the match for ten or so minutes after Leijer's goal until Heart's Kalmar tried his luck from outside of the area but fortunately for the Victory, the crossbar was there to deny his dipping attempt.
From there, the Heart started to push forward but their desire to get one back almost let the Victory in with two good chances to Tom Pondeljak which were both saved by Bolton with just over 15 minutes remaining.
That quarter of an hour saw Heart midfielder Kristian Sarkies go close from a set-piece, Aziz Behich blast over the bar, Sarkies hit the crossbar from way out and the Victory have a few half-chances but that was about the extent of it.
The win moved the Victory to fifth ahead of their home clash with Perth Glory on Saturday night whilst the Heart dropped to eighth and are now in dire straits with just one point from their past seven matches and a trip to Hindmarsh Stadium to take on Adelaide United next weekend.
MH Clint Bolton (gk), Michael Marrone, Simon Colosimo, Matt Thompson, Rutger Worm, Gerald Sibon (Sarkies 46'), Wayne Srhoj, John Aloisi, Aziz Behich, Nick Kalmar, Adrian Zahra
Subs - Peter Zois (gk), Kristian Sarkies (46'), Michael Beauchamp, Jason Hoffman
MV Michael Petkovic (gk), Kevin Muscat, Surat Sukha, Matthew Kemp, Grant Brebner, Archie Thompson, Marvin Angulo, Billy Celeski (Pondeljak 46'), Carlos Hernandez (Ferreira 68'), Robbie Kruse (Dugandzic 75'), Adrian Leijer
Subs - Sebastian Mattei (gk), Tom Pondeljak (46'), Diogo Ferreira (68'), Mate Dugandzic (75')