Eli Babalj was the hero once more last weekend as his goal sealed all three points for Melbourne Heart for the second week in a row.
Eli Babalj was the hero once more last weekend as his goal sealed all three points for Melbourne Heart for the second week in a row. Last time it was against cellar dwellers Gold Coast United, this week it was against the table topping Mariners. The youngster only turned 20 last week, and although inconsistency, not totally unexpected from players of his age, has plagued his season at times, there is no denying that this lad knows when to pick his moments.
The truth is, Babalj might have scored a hat trick on the day, missing one chance that seemed just as easy as the one he put away, but it looks as though the Heart have finally got all the pieces back in place. Matty Thompson and Fred have returned to the midfield to boss games, whilst the thrilling pace of Aziz Behich was a welcome return to the left flank, issuing young Goodwin with a reminder of just how far he has to come yet before cementing a place in the Heart starting line-up. The result certainly wasn-t emphatic but the performance was, and Heart looked a team more than capable of being this season-s dark horses in the A-League final series.
To be honest, the win over Central Coast had been coming. The Mariners were the beneficiaries of some rather disgraceful refereeing in this season-s first encounter between the two in Gosford, and only a few weeks ago the Heart had utterly dominated Graham Arnold-s side from start to finish only to be undone by a split-second of indecision at the back which allowed Adam Kwasnik to rob Melbourne of all three points. On Sunday, Melbourne Heart made sure they would not be denied a third time, and went a long way to re-establishing themselves as favourites in the race to the finals.
John van -t Schip will know though that this cannot afford to be a flash in the pan run of results. The matches are coming thick and fast, and they are all starting to have a distinct finals feeling to them, and it gets no easier with a difficult trip to an in-form Brisbane Roar to come this weekend. Heart have already shown that they have the resolve and the tools to beat the Roar on their own patch but they will face a Brisbane side in lethal form, as opposed to the one that was reeling from the shock of a first defeat in over a year last time around.
Melbourne Heart will have to match the Roar-s desire and energy in the middle of the park if they want to get a positive result from the trip, but thankfully with almost a full complement of players to choose from, van-t Schip will at least have the pleasure of knowing that he will be sending out his absolute best into perhaps the Heart-s toughest match yet.
Follow Matthew on Twitter @mg91.