Adelaide draw with Melbourne Heart

Last updated 00:24 24/03/2012

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Melbourne Heart linchpin Eli Babalj's sustained excellence was rewarded with the equalising goal in their 1-1 away draw with Adelaide United in Friday night's A-League match.

Adelaide striker Sergio van Dijk gave the Reds a lead with a a first-half penalty, before Babalj's second-half leveller at Hindmarsh Stadium.

Adelaide's point for the draw confirmed Gold Coast United will collect the wooden spoon.

And the Heart will play away against Perth Glory or Wellington Phoenix in their inaugural A-League final next weekend.

The Reds will finish ninth despite taking a lead in the 37th minute when Van Dijk converted a penalty after Heart stalwart Simon Colosimo tangled with Adelaide's Daniel Mullen.

As Reds defender Cassio curled a free kick into the penalty area, Colosimo collided with Mullen, who was grounded by the contact.

Referee Adam Kersey instantly called the penalty, and van Dijk struck low and to the right of Heart goalkeeper Clint Bolton to score.

Heart star Babalj threatened twice in the opening half, but aimed a header wide before a powerful 25 metre shot was tipped over the crossbar by Reds goalkeeper Mark Birighitti.

Birighitti was one of six changes to Adelaide's starting line-up from their Asian Champions League win over Gamba Osaka on Tuesday night.

The Reds also substituted playmaker Dario Vidosic at halftime and influential defender Cassio with 30 minutes remaining.

The changes unsettled Adelaide's fluency and Babalj finally capitalised in the 68th minute.

Babalj, after squandering two more scoring chances early in the second stanza, sliced through three Adelaide defenders before wrong-footing Birighitti to score with a finish oozing class.

The Heart enter the finals series undefeated in their past six games.

But their ultimate finishing position - fifth or sixth - and initial finals destination depends on Sunday's result between Sydney FC and Newcastle United.

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- AAP

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