The Melbourne Heart have stamped themselves as genuine contenders for the A-League title and inflicted Sydney FC's worst ever home defeat with a 4-0 thrashing of the Sky Blues at the Sydney Football Stadium on Thursday night.
The Melbourne Heart have stamped themselves as genuine contenders for the Hyundai A-League title and continued their dominance over Sydney FC, thumping the woeful Sky Blues 4-0 at the Sydney Football Stadium.
The Heart had never lost to Sydney in their short history in the A-League and extended that run to five games as the Melbourne team produced a clinical display in front of more than 16,000 fans - the Sky Blues' biggest home crowd of the season.
But the majority of the supporters went home disappointed as first-half goals to youngster Eli Babalj and Mate Dugandzic, followed by second-half strikes from substitutes Jason Hoffman and Alex Terra gave the Heart their biggest ever win.
The win was the second-placed Heart's fifth in a row and gives them a four-point edge over the Brisbane Roar.
And the Heart are now only two points behind league leaders Central Coast.
After showing enormous amounts of character to fight back in a number of games this season, the Sky Blues simply had no answers as they were totally out-fought and out-classed by John van 't Schip's side.
Captaining the Sky Blues for the first time in the absence of suspended skipper Terry McFlynn, Socceroos midfielder Brett Emerton had another frustrating night, while goalkeeper Liam Reddy will have nightmares for some time for his howler which led to the Heart's fourth goal.
The early stages were fairly scrappy with both sides enjoying good chunks of possession in their own half without being able to create anything of note going forward.
There was one contentious moment in the opening 30 minutes when Sky Blues striker Bruno Cazarine chased down a through ball, getting to it first and heading past an advancing Clint Bolton before being clattered into by the Heart custodian.
While Bolton failed to make any contact with the ball, referee Peter Green waved away Sydney's appeals for a penalty.
It proved a vital decision just four minutes later as the Sky Blues' habit for giving away the opening goal continued when young striker Babalj gave the visitors the lead.
And Sydney only had themselves to blame for surrendering the lead.
There appeared little trouble as a loose ball around the box looked like being cleared but defenders Pascal Bosschaart and Scott Jamieson got in each other's way and allowing Heart skipper Fred to sneak in and steal possession before putting the ball on a plate for Babalj.
While the Heart were gifted the opener their second right on the stroke of half-time was simply brilliant.
It started with a perfectly-weighted defence-splitting pass from Aziz Behich which released Rutger Worm down the left and the Dutchman put in a perfect cross to give Dugandzic an easy tap-in.
Sydney boss Vitezslav Lavicka brought on Mark Bridge at half-time and the Sky Blues immediately looked more of a threat in attack.
But they were still failing to give Bolton too much work to do, although Cazarine may have done better when he turned his marker Simon Colosimo in the box, only to shoot tamely at the former Sydney shot-stopper.
The Heart lost skipper Fred to injury 15 minutes after the break but it had little effect as they continued to snuff out any Sydney attack while also looking dangerous on the break.
And it was on one of those counter-attacks the Heart made the game safe with their impressive youngsters Behich and Dugandzic combining to set up Hoffman to make it 3-0.
It got worse for Sydney six minutes from the end after Reddy inexplicably dropped the ball after making a save, allowing the alert Terra to gather possession and dribble the ball into an empty net.
Sydney FC 0 Melbourne Heart 4 (Babalj 32, Dugandzic 45, Hoffman 76, Terra 84) Crowd: 16,007 @ Sydney Football Stadium