Two late goals from Brett Emerton and Rhyan Grant have delivered battlers Sydney FC a dramatic 2-1 win over Melbourne Heart and a much-needed boost to their spluttering season.
|By JOHN GRECO
Two goals at the death have seen Sydney FC give their season a much-needed boost as they escaped with an incredible 2-1 win over Melbourne Heart at a wet Allianz Stadium on Sunday night.
The Sky Blues appeared headed for another sorry home defeat until goals to skipper Brett Emerton and defender Rhyan Grant, the latter in stoppage time, stole an unlikely win.
The visitors appeared set for a third straight victory when Richard Garcia's first-half goal gave them a well-deserved lead.
But just as it looked like Sydney had run out of ideas they struck twice late.
First Emerton, who received an excellent through ball from Terry McFlynn, wriggled his way around three defenders in the box to slot home an equaliser with five minutes left.
And with the seconds ticking away marquee man Alessandro Del Piero produced an excellent cross which landed on the head of Grant who glanced his header underneath goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne.
It was hardly a deserved victory for the home side but one that breathes new life into their season and ensures the majority of the crowd of 13,125 went home happy.
The victory, Sydney's first in eight matches against the Heart, takes the Sky Blues off the bottom of the ladder and back within touching distance of the top six.
The hosts went into the game with the unwanted record of never scoring against the Heart in Sydney and there was nothing to suggest that was going to change early on.
It was the Heart who were enjoying most of the possession, with skipper Fred going close on 14 minutes with a shot that skidded just wide.
The visitors didn't have to wait much longer to take the lead though, with Garcia nodding home his fourth goal of the season.
After catching Sydney napping at a free-kick, Nick Kalmar played a one-two with Fred before floating in a pin-point cross to the back post where Garcia leaped above Grant to power past Vedran Janjetovic.
In an effort to spark his side out of their lethargy, Sky Blues coach Frank Farina substituted the ineffectual Ali Abbas for young striker Blake Powell.
The Iraqi seemed to get involved in a war of words with team-mate Del Piero as he left the field, which continued on for the next few minutes while he was sitting on the Sydney bench.
The drama seemed to spark some life into the home side and they were unlucky not to draw level right on the stroke of half-time.
Jason Culina's excellent free-kick was brilliantly headed into the net by Sebastian Ryall only for the goal to be correctly ruled out for offside.
Del Piero and Abbas continued their spat as half-time came to an end with goal-keeping coach Zeljko Kalac needing to keep the two apart as they walked down the tunnel.
Sydney continued to struggle to break down the Heart's defence after the break with the visitors going close to doubling their lead when Garcia's low shot was smartly saved by Janjetovic.
With their season slipping away the Sky Blues eventually started to apply some pressure to the Heart's defence, with skipper Emerton wasting a gilt-edged chance 20 minutes from time.
Yairo Yau did exceptionally well to beat two players down the left before cutting the ball back for Emerton who looked destined to score.
But the Socceroos midfielder somehow skewed his effort wide of the mark from just eight yards out to let the visitors off the hook.
With a little over five minutes left, Emerton made amends before Grant popped up with the winner at the death.