Kewell farewell bittersweet as Wanderers prevail

Harry Kewell’s farewell from professional football proved a bittersweet occasion as Western Sydney Wanderers secured a dramatic 3-2 win in Melbourne Heart’s final match of the Hyundai A-League 2013-14 season.

Harry Kewell-s farewell from professional football proved a bittersweet occasion as Western Sydney Wanderers secured a dramatic 3-2 win in Melbourne Heart-s final match of the Hyundai A-League 2013-14 season.

But Kewell, 35, demonstrated his touch, awareness and class - which made him a household name in Australia and abroad - still remained with him in his final professional match.

Western Sydney Wanderers set out to spoil Kewell-s farewell, opening the scoring via the head of captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley. But Melbourne Heart hit back through an incredible strike from marquee Orlando Engelaar just before the break.

Melbourne Heart created a number of fantastic chances but the goalkeeping heroics of Ante Covic kept the scores level, before Jason Hoffman emerged in the 72nd minute and dispatched a deflected strike to give Melbourne the lead.

But two late goals - one from substitute Brendon Santalab in the 81st minute and a goal from Youssouf Hersi in the 86th - gave the visiting Wanderers all three points.

The result proved bittersweet for Kewell, who played the full 90 minutes, was instrumental in Engelaar-s goal and received a glowing reception and final applause - from a crowd of 10,003, including a boisterous travelling party of over 500 Wanderers supporters.

As he walked onto the pitch for the final time prior to kick-off, flanked by his four young kids and a guard of honour formed by both his Melbourne Heart teammates and the Wanderers, there was a collective sense of the magnitude of Kewell-s achievements and the legacy he has left on Australian football.

Despite not playing in Melbourne Heart-s previous two matches, Kewell looked at home once again on the pitch in his swansong, controlling the tempo of the match with each touch, but also illustrating the delicate flicks and flair that made him Australia-s golden boy of the Golden Generation.

In a fast-paced - and controversial - encounter, Kewell-s side looked to take the initiative early, as Stefan Mauk and fired in a shot before Jason Hoffman and Mate Dugandzic linked well down the left to create three early chances in the first 15 minutes.

Tomi Juric had the Wanderers- best chance of a frantic early spell, turning his marker and delivering a low shot, but Tando Velaphi saved well in the Melbourne Heart goal.

Jerome Polenz then struck an effort over the bar; before Kewell - the star of the show - illustrated his intelligence, ‘dummying- a fantastic Robbie Wielaert pass all the way through to Dugandzic, only for the winger to skew a good chance wide in the 20th minute.

With tackles flying in from both teams, Hoffman was controversially penalised for a seemingly legitimate tackle in the 27th minute on Adam D-Apuzzo, and Wanderers marquee Shinji Ono curled in the resulting free-kick for Topor-Stanley to header home, against the run of play.

Velaphi was then forced to tip out a shot from distance from Juric, but it was Melbourne-s marquee who responded with the next goal.

Kewell rolled a quick free kick into the path of Engelaar, who unleashed an unstoppable drive off the post with Ante Covic beaten in the 34th minute. Engelaar ran straight to Kewell to dedicate it to his outgoing captain as the pair embraced.

Wanderers threatened again, but some expert defending from Wielaert, who squeezed in between the ball and Hersi in the box, denied the visitors a second goal.

Matthew Spiranovic was then forced to clear Jonatan Germano-s header off the line as the teams went into the break after an extremely entertaining half locked at 1-1.

A switch at the break saw Aziz Behich enter the fray for David Williams and it was Behich who nearly handed Kewell a goal in his finale.

Attacking down the left flank, Behich went on a stunning run before cutting back to Kewell whose effort required an incredible stop from Covic in the Wanderers goal.

Covic then bettered his first effort, tipping out a header from Germano from the resulting corner.

Engelaar tried to replicate his first-half effort with a powerful dipping strike from distance which skimmed the top of the net, but there was further controversy as Wanderers won a penalty when Mateo Poljak appeared to be sandwiched by Wielaert and Germano.

Ono struck his penalty onto the top of the Melbourne Heart cross-bar and in a dramatic turnaround, Hoffman broke down the right two minutes later and handed Heart the lead through a deflected effort in the 72nd minute.

But a fairytale ending was not to be for Kewell, as Wanderers claimed two late goals.

In an engaging and dramatic final chapter of Kewell-s incredible career, the number 10 still managed a broad smile as he walked around AAMI Park one final time to a touching reception from both sets of fans.

Match Details Saturday, 12 April 2014 Melbourne Heart FC 2 (Engelaar 34-, Hoffman 72-) Western Sydney Wanderers 3 (Topor-Stanley 27-, Santalab 81-, Hersi 86-) Referee: Jarred GILLETT Attendance: 10, 003 AAMI Park, Melbourne

Melbourne Heart FC Starting XI: 20. Tando VELAPHI (GK), 3. Robbie WIELAERT, 4. Orlando ENGELAAR, 10. Harry KEWELL (C), 13. Jonatan GERMANO, 15. David WILLIAMS (16. Aziz BEHICH 46-), 17. Jason HOFFMAN, 18. David VRANKOVIC, 19. Benjamin GARUCCIO (7. Iain RAMSAY 88-), 21. Stefan MAUK (8. Massimo MURDOCCA 79-), 23. Mate DUGANDZIC, 24. Patrick KISNORBO Substitutes not used: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 6. Patrick GERHARDT Yellow Cards: Kewell 45-+1, Kisnorbo 50-, Garuccio 54-, Dugandzic 68-, Wielaert 80+4- Red Cards Nil

Western Sydney Wanderers Starting XI: 1. Ante COVIC (GK), 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (C), 6. Jerome POLENZ, 8. Mateo POLJAK, 9. Tomi JURIC (11. Brendon SANTALAB 79-), 13. Matthew SPIRANOVIC, 17. Youssouf HERSI, 18. Iacopo LA ROCCA (10. Aaron MOOY, 79-), 19. Mark BRIDGE (7. Labinot HALITI 65-), 21. Shinji ONO Substitutes not used: 20. Jerrad TYSON (GK), 2. Shannon COLE Yellow Cards: La Rocca 8-, Hersi 49-, D-Apuzzo 65-, Poljak 83-, Santalab 90-+5 Red Cards Nil