SYDNEY FC 2 MELBOURNE HEART 1

Bad luck continues: Harry Kewell, left, reacts with Michael Mifsud after missing a penalty kick.

Bad luck continues: Harry Kewell, left, reacts with Michael Mifsud after missing a penalty kick. Photo: Getty Images

Sydney FC were so fortunate to beat Melbourne Heart at home on Sunday that for the first time in John Aloisi's memory, Frank Farina apologised to an opposing coach at the end of a match.

Only a string of fine saves by goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic and a shocking penalty miss by Harry Kewell denied the visitors a result as the Sky Blues survived a late Heart resurgence to hang on to a tense 2-1 win to keep the chase on runaway A-League leaders, Brisbane Roar.

“We've got to be better than what we were tonight, otherwise things can quickly change as well. We've got to improve and we will do that,” Sydney FC coach Farina said.

Sydney FC's Ranko Despotovic is swamped by team mates after scoring the Sky Blues' second goal.

Sydney FC's Ranko Despotovic is swamped by team mates after scoring the Sky Blues' second goal. Photo: Getty Images

Time
90.00
Team
SYD
Score
2
Team
HRT
Score
1
Sydney FC versus Melbourne Heart FC
View Match Statistics
Players Del-Piero (43min), Despotovic (46min) Goals Mifsud (72min)

There was an upwelling of relief at the final whistle – personified by Janjetovic who simply collapsed on the field while his teammates celebrated – as the Sky Blues maintained their near perfect home record with a nervous win over a luckless Heart.

After a dour half an hour that lacked any significant attacking penetration from either side, a rare purposeful run by Sydney FC should have led to the opening goal of the match.

Matt Thompson was played into the box and hit a first time cross that struck the flailing arm of the Heart's Massimo Murdocca. Despite the clear contact, the appeal of 11 Sydney players and the outcry of the crowd of 16,008 in attendance, referee Chris Beath waved play-on, deeming it ball-to-hand.

Just as the game was loomed a contender for the season's most forgettable, Alessandro Del Piero lived up to his reputation with a moment of individual brilliance that changed the course of the match. The Italian star exposed Heart's lethargic defence with a darting solo run to beat three players and slot a right foot shot into the back of the net.

Sydney fans could have been forgiven for thinking they were dreaming two minutes later as they went from battling to stay awake to jumping in joy after Serbian striker Ranko Despotovic nailed a second goal. With his back to goal, Despotovic turned his marker Patrick Kisnorbo before slamming a right foot shot on the turn that proved to strong for Heart keeper Andrew Redmayne.

Del Piero's stunning goal was his last contribution to the match after failing to reappear in the second half after withdrawing himself due to muscle tightness.

Harry Kewell made his entrance in the 57th minute, and wasted no time to introduce himself to his opponents, sparking a fiery war of words with Sydney defender Nikola Petkovic. Australia's former prodigal son didn't fade out of the limelight and made sure it was a match many would remember him for, although for all the wrong reasons.

A free kick taken by Nick Kalmar struck the raised arm of Sydney's Joel Chianese, the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Kewell stepped up but the finesse that carried him from Smithfield to Anfield evaded him as he scuffed the top of the ball to skew his shot harmlessly wide of the goal.

However, Heart only had to wait a matter of minutes to hit back. A clever through-ball from Mate Dugandzic to Michael Mifsud put the pint-sized striker through on goal, and after rounding Janjetovic, he slotted his first A-League goal. That goal rattled Sydney, who had Janjetovic to thank for keeping hold of their lead after a superb one-on-one save to deny David Williams in the 80th minute, and then a fine reflex save against Golgol Mebrahtu in the dying minutes to clinch a win that was the most painful of all of Heart's defeats this year.

“It's hard to take. It's hard to come out of that game over there with zero points. It's killing me inside,” Aloisi said.