Melbourne Heart FC celebrated its 100th match in the Hyundai A-League with a commanding 3-1 win over the Newcastle Jets at AAMI Park on Friday evening.
Despite first-half scare, two goals in the dying embers of the first stanza gave the Red and White the impetus to seal the result in the second period, and claim all three points for the first time this season.
Taylor Regan opened the scoring for the visitors, against the run of play from a corner in the 37th minute.
But Melbourne, who had far the better chances in the first stanza, hit the Jets with a double blow just before the break, with Iain Ramsay firing in a deflected strike in the 45th minute, before Dugandzic gave Melbourne the lead for the first time in the match a minute later.
Dugandzic sealed the result in the second half on a memorable night, slotting under Birighitti after a superb through-ball from Ramsay.
The match marked the long-awaited debut of marquee Orlando Engelaar, who entered the fray in the second half to rapturous applause from the Melbourne Heart faithful.
The home side had a bounce in their step from the outset, with Ramsay’s curling shot tipped out by the outstanding Mark Birighitti – who was a constant thorn in Heart’s side during the match – in just the sixth minute.
Patrick Gerhardt then headed the resulting corner over the bar, before a venomous strike from captain Harry Kewell was tipped over by the Jets custodian.
Melbourne Heart were in the mood and Ramsay even tried his luck from distance with an audacious effort in the 9th minute, which flew wide of the target.
The chances continued to flow for the home side, as Jason Hoffman’s cross from the right was headed just wide by David Williams, before Birighitti smothered another attack from Williams in the 24th minute.
Williams was injured in the challenge and substituted for another attacking player, Michael Mifsud, seven minutes later.
But it was Jets who went forward and stole a shock 1-0 lead as Taylor Regan headed home the opener in the 37th minute.
Melbourne Heart looked to hit back immediately through Dugandzic, who flashed a shot wide of the target, before Mifsud cracked a decent effort at Birighitti.
But the equaliser came on the stroke of half-time, as Kewell’s cushioned header was struck by Ramsay, with the ball finding its way past Birighitti via a wicked deflection.
It was 2-1 just a minute later as Dugandzic headed home a pin-point cross from Behich to give the Red and White a lead at the break.
Newcastle looked to threaten early in the second half as Gary van Egmond rung the changes with a double substitution at the break, and James Brown, fresh from the bench, forced a good save from Redmayne.
Engelaar entered the fray with 30 minutes left, as the Dutchman made his long-awaited debut and looked to immediately control the play and protect the team’s advantage.
Jets tried to stem the flow with some physicality, as Brown and Jacob Pepper received cautions, but the Red and White made their impact on the scoreboard, as Dugandzic finished coolly under Birighitti after a fantastic through-ball from Ramsay in the 67th minute.
Dugandzic was denied his hat-trick a short time later, but Birighitti was again on hand to stop the Heart from extending its lead.
The clock wound down and match finished 3-1 as the Melbourne Heart savoured its first win of the season.
Hyundai A-League Round 15
Friday, 17 January 2014
Melbourne Heart FC 3 (Ramsay 45’, Dugandzic 45+2’, 67’)
Newcastle Jets 1 (Regan 37’)
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Attendance: 5, 046
Referee: Alan Milliner
Melbourne Heart FC Squad: 1.Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 3.Robbie WIELAERT, 6.Patrick GERHARDT, 7.Iain RAMSAY, 8.Massimo MURDOCCA, 10.Harry KEWELL (C), 15.David WILLIAMS (11. Michael MIFSUD 32’), 16.Aziz BEHICH, 17.Jason HOFFMAN, 22.Nick KALMAR (4. Orlando ENGELAAR 59’), 23.Mate DUGANDZIC (19. Benjamin GARUCCIO 84’)
Substitutes not used: 20.Tando VELAPHI (GK), 24.Patrick KISNORBO
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
Newcastle Jets squad: 1.Mark BIRIGHITTI (GK), 3.Taylor REGAN, 4.Kew JALIENS, 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI (19.Michael BRIDGES 61’), 6.Zenon CARAVELLA, 8.Ruben ZADKOVICH (c), 9.Emile HESKEY, 11.Craig GOODWIN, 16.Jacob PEPPER, 17, James VIRGILI (27. Nick WARD 46’), 21.Sam GALLAWAY (18. James BROWN 46’)
Substitutes not used: 20.Ben KENNEDY (GK), 13.Joey GIBBS
Yellow Cards: Kantarovski 3’, Regan 13’, Pepper 62, Brown 63’, Jaliens 90′
Red Cards: Nil