Wanderers deny Kewell winning send off

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Western Sydney Wanderers have geared up for a tilt at the title with a come from behind 3-2 win over Melbourne Heart to cruelly deny Harry Kewell a winning farewell from football.

Two goals in the final 10 minutes secured the points for the travelling Wanderers to keep their top two dreams alive, while ruining Heart’s end of season high in the process.

It looked as though the fairy tale was well and alive as Heart went into the 80th minute of play enjoying a well-deserved 2-1 lead.

That ended in a heartbeat, however, as Youseff Hersi and Brendon Santalab both scored to ensure the Wanderers a top two finish.

Kewell was busy all evening for the Heart and while injury limited his time for the club, he was immense in ensuring they would pick up possibly their last outing wearing Red and White.

It was an emotional match in the stands for the home fans as they passionately voiced their displeasure at the possible change of club name and colour once new owners Manchester City take over form next year.

If this was the be the last occasion for the Heart and the red and white, it was given a rousing farewell as they outplayed their finals bound opposition for much of the night in a performance that deserved maximum points.

A guard of honour from both sides greeted Kewell out to the AAMI Park pitch as the fans donned masks in appreciation of the man of the moment.

The Heart started brightly and dictated large parts of the opening. They looked as though they bagged the opener in the 19th minute as Kewell left a pass that played in Mate Dungandzic clean on goal but could only push his shot wide of goal.

However, it was the Wanderers who opened the scoring against the run of play in the 27th minute as Nikolai Topor-Stanley headed home a perfectly timed Shinji Ono free kick to break the game wide open.

Not deterred by going down, Heart got back on level terms in the 34th minute with Orlando Engelaar doing what he does best; scoring screamers from a long way out.

With cries of “shoot” bellowing from the crowd, the big Dutchman duly obliged as he let rip a thunderous shot from outside the box that clipped the edge of the goal frame to sneak past Ante Covic.

The moment everyone came for almost happened in the 62nd minute as Covic cruelly denied Kewell a goal with a breathtaking fingertip save.

The ball fell for Kewell inside the box with his fierce volley looking goal bound until the giant hands of Covic intervened to deny a truly fantastic moment.

Proving the save was no fluke, Covic put in an almost identical save just minutes later to keep out a Jonatan Germano header from the corner.

Western Sydney were offered a lifeline in the 68th minute in the form of a penalty which they didn’t take. Shinji Ono in his last regular season A-League fixture smashed his spot kick against the cross bar to keep the Heart in the match.

The breakthrough came through an unlikely source in the 71st minute with Jason Hoffman putting the Heart in front with a deflected shot that got the better of Covic to give the Heart the lead.

Desperate for a top two finish, Wanderers pushed the Heart in search of an equaliser immediately after falling behind. Attack after attack was quashed from the Heart defence who looked hell bent on giving Kewell the sweetest of goodbyes.

As we all know football can be a cruel game and it proved true as Wanderers killed the game off in five brutal minutes.

Hersi took advantage of a defensive mistake in the 81st minute to draw Western Sydney level before Santalab volleyed home in the 86th minute to round off the visitors comeback win.

A dejected looking Kewell after the match was disappointed with the outcome.

“I was proud of the boys today. Disappointed we didn’t come out with the win. We played well, we created chances. I’ve seen better goals scored against us.

“Of course you always want to do more. I think we scored two great goals. I’m frustrated because I thought we did enough to win the game. Disappointing but that’s football.

“It’s been long, it’s been hard. Just get away and refresh the body. Hopefully they (Heart) can go along and do great things.”

Wanderer’s manager Tony Popovic hailed his side’s ability to come from behind and steal victory.

“Fantastic character shown by everyone in that squad. Players that came on made a difference.

“Its human nature to feel sorry for yourself when you miss a penalty and a minute later concede a goal straight from that. Players knew we had to win that game.

“We stuck at it, we kept pour structure and in the end we scored three goals.”

In some ways it was fitting that Kewell’s career came to an end in such a manner. Despair and bad lack hampered Kewell’s otherwise stellar career, which is exactly what happened this evening.

Thus ends what has been one of the greatest careers any Australian has experienced in football. A career of highs and lows ending in a match full of highs and lows.

Farewell Harry, and thanks for the memories!

Melbourne Heart: 20. Tando VELAPHI(GK), 2. Jeremey WALKER, 3. Robbie WIELART, 4. Orlando ENGELAAR, 10. Harry KEWELL(C), 13.  Jonatan GERMANO, 15. David WILLIAMS, 17. Jason HOFFMAN, 19. Ben GARUCCIO, 21. Stefan MAUK, 23. Mate DUGANDZIC, 24. Patrick KISNORBO

Bench: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE(GK), 6. Patrick GERHARDT, 7 Iain RAMSEY, 8. Massimo MURDOCCA, 16. Aziz BEHICH

Western Sydney Wanderers: 1. Ante COVIC(GK), 3. Adam D’APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY(C), 6. Jerome POLENZ, 8. Mateo POLJAK, 9. Tomi JURIC, 13. Matthew SPIRANOVIC, 17. Youssouf HERSI, 18. Iacapo LA ROCCA, 19. Mark BRIDGE, 21. Shinji ONO

Bench: 20. Jerrad TYSON(GK), 2. Shannon COLE, 7. Labinot HALITI, 10 Aaron MOOY, 11. Brendon SANTALAB

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