Melbourne Heart coach John Aloisi has praised Eli Babalj for returning to form after a turbulent stint with Serbian club Red Star Belgrade.
Babalj, 20, re-joined Heart last month after Red Star failed to pay the final instalment of his AU$400,000 transfer fee.
The forward was handed a starting berth against Melbourne Victory last week and marked his third appearance of the season with a goal in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Perth Glory at AAMI Park.
“When he first arrived two weeks ago you could see he was a bit down on confidence,” Aloisi said.
“He hadn’t played a lot of football in the last six months and he virtually didn’t really train with the ball for the last month over there because they were having their mid-season (break).
“You could see when he missed that first chance that he was a little bit down on himself, but that goal will give him a huge boost.
“You don’t want to compare him to anyone, but to have the size of Eli and to have feet like he’s got in and around that box is going to cause defenders all sorts of trouble.”
Babalj appeared to be arguing with team-mate Nick Kalmar over set-piece duties against Perth, though Aloisi was happy to see the recently capped Socceroo so animated.
“I know what Eli is like and I hadn’t seen that since he’d been back, so I don’t mind that. That’s the Eli we want,” he said.
“We want Eli, he’s a striker, not to be selfish and want to do everything himself, but to know that ‘give me the ball and I’ll make something happen.’”
“You could see in the first half there was a couple of times when he received the ball with his back to goal, turned inside and out and then laid off Richie (Garcia) and he can do that all the time.”
Heart climbed to fifth on the A-League ladder after beating Glory and will look to strengthen their finals hopes when they meet the sixth-placed Jets in Newcastle next week.
“It gives us confidence because we played well and also a team that probably physically would outmuscle us in the past, whereas this year in the two home games they haven’t been able to,” Aloisi said.
“Now, we have to perform like that away from home, that’s the big thing now.
“We’ve got a massive game against Newcastle; our focus now is on that because they’re another team around our area.”