Melbourne Victory used Melbourne Heart as a stepladder to climb a little closer to the A-League peak, with a pulsating 2-1 derby win at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.
A delightfully worked first half goal to Archie Thompson and Mark Milligan’s second half penalty capped second-placed Victory’s win as they closed within three points of league leaders Central Coast Mariners.
Victory goalkeeper Nathan Coe was perhaps his side’s most important player – three huge first half saves denying the Heart as a frenetic opening 45 minutes swung in the balance.
With the Heart menacing early, Coe was called into action inside six minutes to deny fullback Jeremy Walker.
He produced a gem of a reflex stop from Eli Babalj on 13 minutes, then for the pick of the trio, a diving save high to his left to stop a goalbound Golgol Mebrahtu free-kick just before halftime.
His magnificence between the sticks allowed those outfield to work the necessary magic – midfielder Marcos Flores’ superb turn and chip freeing Thompson on 29 minutes to score and put the Victory ahead.
Both sides had excellent patches of play in the first half, before Victory were handed clear advantage early in the second when Heart midfielder Jonathan Germano manhandled Flores in the box off the ball and was caught out by referee Strebre Delovski.
Milligan hammered home the penalty to the delight of the majority of the 41,203 crowd.
But with the Victory seemingly in control, a neat individual goal from Heart winger David Williams in which he beat two defenders meant a nervous last 17 minutes for the home side.
Heart’s best chance of an equaliser was again created by the lively Williams, whose excellent cross on 76 minutes was headed just wide by Mebrahtu.
Heart goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne also produced two fine saves late in the match to stop the Victory going further ahead.