Half-term report card: Melbourne Heart

As we approach the mid-point of season nine of the Hyundai A-League, we take a look at how the teams are progressing.

Where to start with Melbourne Heart?

After a promising draw in the Melbourne derby in Round 1, things have gone from bad to worse for Heart.

John Aloisi, one of their favourite sons, was dismissed last week with former coach John Van't Schip taking the reigns for the remainder of the season. It was a sad end to Aloisi's association with Heart, a club he had been with from the very beginning.

Their style of football at times was very appetising, and it was very rare indeed that they had their full strength side on the park.

Indeed, it could be argued that they haven't yet done so, after the terrible injury sustained by Orlando Engelaar in pre-season.

Engelaar is a player of serioues pedigree, he was capped 14 times by the Netherlands and played at Euro 2008.

But, he suffered a fractured leg in a friendly against Brisbane Roar in Lismore and grave fears were held over his ability to participate at all this season. He has rehabiliated well though, and may well appear in the coming weeks.

That won't help Aloisi though, who wanted to build the Heart side around the talents of Engelaar in midfield and Harry Kewell in attack. Kewell's injury problems seem to be behind him now and his class isn't in doubt, but without he and Engelaar, there were question marks over Heart's depth.

Maltese legend Michael Mifsud was also recruited in the off-season. He once scored a double at Old Trafford for Coventry City in a 2-0 win and has scored 39 goals in 104 appearances for the Maltese national side, which he captains.

His pace has caused trouble for many defences in the A-League this season but his finishing has let him down. He has scored just once, against Sydney FC in Round 10, but the feeling remains that for all his opportunities, soon the goals will start flowing.

It was after the Round 12 defeat to Wellington Phoenix that the Heart board took the decision to dismiss Aloisi and replace him with Van't Schip, who was already back at the club in a technical capacity.

The 0-0 draw with Central Coast Mariners was a decent start to Van't Schip's second coming as coach, but the facts remain stark.

Heart haven't won a match this season, drawing five and losing eight. They have only scored nine goals and have the worst defence in the league, having conceded 22 times.

They are one match away from equalling the A-League record for consecutive matches without a win, 19, currently held by New Zealand Knights.

Chairman Peter Sidwell said at the Aloisi press conference that Heart are aiming for finals football. The case of the Wellington Phoenix proves that a few wins in succession can change everything, but Heart need theirs to start this weekend.

STAR MAN: Massimo Murdocca

Murdocca has been as neat and tidy as you would come to expect from a player of seasoned A-League experience.

His ability to retain possession in tight areas is crucial to the way Heart want to play, even if the results haven't matched thier performances. Murdocca's burgeoning partnership with Nick Kalmar in deep midfield has added extra steel in recent weeks.

Aloisi valued Murdocca's metronomic consistency in the centre of the park and he has played every single minute of the season so far.

His passing accuracy of 82.6% is higher than those of Luke Brattan and Aaron Mooy, who play similar roles for the top two teams in the league.

COACH'S REPORT: John Aloisi/John Van't Schip

Once the wins stop coming it is always difficult for coaches in what is essentially a results-based business.

Aloisi was a Heart foundation player and scored the last goal of a decorated career for Heart against Sydney FC, before one year as National Youth League coach led to him taking the top job. Hindsight says he probably wasn't ready, but there is no doubt that Aloisi will resurface as an excellent coach in the future.

Sometimes, things just don't work out and Aloisi's history with Heart probably afforded him a longer stay of execution than other clubs would have allowed.

He was popular with the players and he was dignified and defiant throughout, but something had to give.


The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not reflect those of Football Federation Australia.