Heart deliver Sydney knock-out blow

Melbourne Heart have kept their finals hopes well and truly alive - and put the final nail in Sydney's chances - with a late 1-0 win over the defending champions at the Sydney Football Stadium on Thursday night.

Melbourne Heart have kept their finals hopes well and truly alive - and put the final nail in Sydney's chances - with a late 1-0 win over the defending champions at the Sydney Football Stadium on Thursday night.

A lacklustre contest appeared headed for a goalless draw until an 85th goal to Heart substitute Adrian Zahra won the points for the visitors.

It was probably more than the Heart deserved after Sydney created the best chances of the second half and deserved at least a point for their toil.

But the Heart will happily take the three points which catapults them up to fifth place on the A-League ladder.

In contrast Sydney's faint finals hopes are now over after firing their fourth blank in their last five matches to slump to last on the table.

It was Zahra that produced the most important piece of quality of the night with his goal close to the end.

After Sky Blues skipper Terry McFlynn gave away possession inside his own half, the ball fell to Heart substitute Gerald Sibon and the big Dutchman turned sharply before playing a delightful pass to Zahra who finished calmly.

With both sides in desperate need of the three points, it was no surprise that the match started with plenty of intensity and enterprise.

It was the home side that created the first chance in just the fifth minute when Sung-Hwan Byun and Scott Jamieson combined well down the left before the latter sent in a perfect cross to the far post only for youngster Dimitri Petratos to side-foot wide.

Heart striker John Aloisi, playing his first game in Sydney since leaving the Sky Blues at the end of last season, then had two chances in quick succession, the best from a free-kick but his low drive was straight at Liam Reddy.

Byun was having his best game of the season for Sydney down the left-hand side and it was another of his crosses that produced the next chance but Stephan Keller just couldn't get enough on his header and it glanced wide.

Unfortunately Sydney's early endeavour didn't last and slowly the visitors' crisp passing game and movement eventually took control.

The Heart's best opportunities continued to land on the head of Aloisi but the former Socceroos striker's radar was off, while Rutger Worm also had Reddy scrambling 10 minutes before the break when his deflected shot from 25 metres sailed inches wide of the post.

John van 't Schip's side were finishing the half much stronger and should have taken the lead in the final minute when Worm drove into the box, blasting a shot that Reddy could only parry, with Aziz Behich firing the rebound over the bar.

The break was just was the Sydney needed as they came out re-energised after half-time and immediately went on the front foot.

Heart keeper Clint Bolton, another of the last season's championship-winning Sydney side to return to his former stomping ground, was suddenly called into action and he thwarted the home side on three occasions inside 10 minutes.

First it was a brilliant save low down to his left to deny Hiro Moriyasu, followed by a diving save to stop Keller's header a minute later and he completed his hat-trick of stops with a spectacular one-handed effort to tip Mark Bridge's volley over the bar.

Sydney boss Vitezslav Lavicka brought on Nicky Carle after an hour and the midfielder was immediately involved in the best chance of the half, exchanging passes with Petratos who teed up Shannon Cole for a strike at goal.

Cole scuffed his effort into the path of Bridge put he couldn't keep his attempt down and the chance was gone.

Sydney would come to rue their misses with Zahra breaking the home fans' hearts with his late strike.

Sydney FC 0

Melbourne Heart 1 (Zahra 85m) Crowd: 6639 @ the SFS