Heart Held By Mariners At AAMI Park

Melbourne Heart FC’s Hyundai A-League finals hopes remain in the balance after the side was held to a 1-1 draw by the Central Coast Mariners at AAMI Park.

Melbourne Heart FC-s Hyundai A-League finals hopes remain in the balance after the side was held to a 1-1 draw by the Central Coast Mariners at AAMI Park.

After braving an hour long delay due to torrential rain, Heart-s hopes of climbing back into the top six temporarily were dashed as the Mariners Daniel McBreen swept home from close range only a minute after Matt Thompson opened the scoring in bizarre fashion via free kick from inside his own half.

While Head Coach John van ‘t Schip said Heart would now be forced to rely on external results to reach the finals, the former Dutch international refused to relinquish hope.

“After opening the scoring, to then concede a goal soon after meant we had to start all over again which wasn-t good for the confidence,” he said.

“It-s happened often this season and it-s something we will have to look at and analyse, but mathematically we are still alive. We just have to hope that all the results go our way and we also defeat Sydney next week.”

Undeterred by the late kick-off, Heart immediately made its intentions known in the opening stages of the match, moving the ball fluently through the midfield.

With securing a win important to applying pressure on the Club-s rivals for a finals berth, Heart appeared to be on the charge, as the retiring Josip Skoko once again emerged as a key barometer, dictating terms with his trademark poise.

And it was a corner from Skoko which produced the opening chance of the contest, combining with fellow former Socceroo John Aloisi, who flashed a header wide.

Aloisi was denied again minutes later as Mariners- stopper Matt Ryan produced a stellar save to parry his header after a cross from Aziz Behich.

Named as the January nominee for the Young Footballer of the Year award, Behich was in ominous form on the left flank, attacking with intent as Heart sought to exploit the Central Coast down the flanks.

The best chance of the opening half fell to Alex Terra, with the Brazilian attacker unable to direct his effort on target after latching onto a delightfully lofted Gerald Sibon ball before prodding wide.

But after the break, Heart secured a deserved opener, albeit in rather bizarre circumstances as Thompson launched a free-kick from inside his own which caught the Central Coast-s ‘keeper out of position, bouncing over his head before it was bundled over the line.

However, the lead was extraordinarily short lived as McBreen equalised just over 60 seconds later after Joshua Rose did remarkably well to force his way to the byline and play a dangerous ball into the box.

The goal prompted a period of dominance for the Mariners, who ventured forward in search of the breakthrough which would keep them in the race for the Premiers Plate.

McBreen had a chance to double his tally for the match just before the hour mark, but Heart-s Clint Bolton was up to the task, producing the save.

Entering its final stanza, the contest developed into an end-to-end affair, but it was Heart who produced the best opportunity to claim all three points, Wayne Srhoj side-footing his effort high after combining splendidly with Aloisi.