|By PAUL GOUGH
Melbourne Heart is the big firmer in A-League title betting following an upset riddled start to the season on the weekend.
Not one of the five matches went according to the script with league heavyweights Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne Victory all beaten by Perth, Wellington and the Heart respectively, while newcomers West Sydney secured a gallant 0-0 draw against last year's minor premiers Central Coast.
And Adelaide, despite coming off a 33-hour trip home from Uzbekistan in the Asian Champions League midweek, also scored an upset away win over a Newcastle side that had been tipped to be one of the big improvers this season after securing former England striker Emile Heskey.
However, it was Heart's 2-1 win over cross-town rivals Victory in front of 42,000 fans at Etihad Stadium on Friday that clearly caught the eye of punters as the club's new manager in former Socceroos great John Aloisi made a fairytale start to his senior coaching career.
Victory, now under dual Brisbane Roar premiership winning coach Ange Postecoglou, had been expected to get off to a winning start to the season but even Victory's star striker Archie Thompson admitted after the game that Victory had been "bullied" by the impressive Heart.
Despite making the finals last season, Heart began the season at $18 to win the A-League grand final at Betfair - having been as high as $25 during preseason - and were only above competition newcomers West Sydney in title betting.
However, after their impressive first-up showing on Friday, Heart are now into $12 to win the competition this season, having leapfrogged both Adelaide at $12.50 and Wellington at $14 in title betting, with West Sydney still the $34 outsiders.
But even at $12, Heart remain good value considering they are shorter at $10 at Sportsbet.
Heart are also fantastic value at just under even money at $1.98 to make the top six this season at Betfair, with Aloisi's men expected to make it two from two when they face Wellington in Melbourne on Sunday.
|Melbourne Heart to make the A-League's top six at $1.98 at Betfair
||Central Coast Mariners to win the 2011-12 A-League at $7.60 at Betfair|
With this weekend's second round clashing with a full round of World Cup qualifiers, Heart have the luxury of facing a Phoenix team that will be decimated because the match clashes with New Zealand's latest World Cup qualifying match.
Wellington will not only be without coach Ricki Herbert, who is also the manager of the national team, but also goalkeepers Mark Paston and Glen Moss as well as defenders Tony Lochhead, Ben Sigmund and Leo Bertos and striker Jeremy Brockie.
The Roar, who are aiming to become the first club to win three successive A-League titles, remain the title favourites despite their disappointing first-up loss to Perth Glory under new coach Rado Vidosic.
But Betfair's Daniel Bevan said Roar have eased from $4 to $5.20 to win the grand final this season, although they still account for more than a quarter of all bets on the title this season.
Victory remain second favourites at $6 but last year's runners-up Perth have now leapfrogged Sydney FC into third favouritism, after reversing last year's grand final loss to Brisbane in the opening round.
The Glory have firmed from $7.40 to $6.60 to win the title and are now ahead of Sydney FC at $6.80 after the Sky Blues - with the league's biggest-ever signing in Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero now in their ranks - failed to fire in a 2-0 loss to Wellington in New Zealand in the opening round.
*Note prices subject to change