Melbourne Heart made the perfect start to the 2012-13 Hyundai A-League season with a 2-1 opening night win over cross-town rivals Melbourne Victory at Etihad Stadium tonight.
A crowd of over 42,000 witnessed a breathtaking end to end first half with both sides gleaming with opportunities in front of goal.
It would be the visiting Heart who got the go-ahead goal on 14 minutes, when young striker David Williams coasted in unmarked from the left to fire past Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas.
The Victory built a sustained period of pressure with the triumvirate of Marcos Flores, Guilherme Finkler and Archie Thompson posing a threat in the attacking half.
The weight of possession, largely through the patient build-up style of football deployed by new Victory coach Ange Postecoglou, would pay dividends when Thompson sent in a pinpoint low cross from the left to connect with Marco Rojas, who tapped past Heart goalkeeper Clint Bolton to make it 1-1 in the 24th minute.
Almost against the run of play, the Heart wrestled back the lead in first half stoppage time through an incisive scudded ball from the right by Heart winger Mate Dugandzic, which pierced Victory captain Adrian Leijer and Thomas to find Dylan Macallister, who made no mistake from close range.
There was a familiar pattern of play that developed in the final 45 with the Victory enjoying the bulk of possession in the front third for little reward, while the Heart sat back and counter-attacked with success coming in the form of more clear cut chances in front of goal.
The best chances of the half fell at the feet of Williams, who was denied on a couple of occasions by Thomas, and Thompson, who skied a late opportunity inside the penalty area.
But, for all the opportunities, there was no further addition to score in the second half.
Heart coach John Aloisi was thrilled with the three points in his first home-and-away game since taking over from John van ‘t Schip.
”It’s not about me, it’s about the club and the players and the team,” he told Fox Sports.
”We wanted to get off to a good start because the first two seasons Melbourne Heart haven’t, so it was important tonight that we won the first game and now the belief in the boys and what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to achieve is going to be there.”
Victory coach Ange Postecoglou labelled the performance ”hugely disappointing” and dismissed the notion he needs more time to get his new side playing at their optimum level.
”There was no excuse for it,” he said.
”This is not a building process. The league has started and we’ve got to be ready. I just don’t think we performed anywhere near the level we should.”
Next week, the Heart will play its home opener against Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park on Sunday, while the Victory will try to re-group for an intimidating road trip to the Brisbane Roar on Saturday night.
Melbourne Victory 1 (Rojas) lt Melbourne Heart 2 (Williams, Macallister)
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Huysegems, Fenton) d Sydney FC 0
Western Sydney Wanderers 0 drew Central Coast Mariners 0
Perth Glory 1 (Mehmet) v Brisbane Roar 0
Newcastle Jets 0 v Adelaide United 2 (Vidosic, Ramsay)