Melbourne Heart succumbed to a wonder strike from Pedj Bojic, as Central Coast Mariners claimed a 1-0 win at AAMI Park today.
Melbourne Heart FC were undone by a superb second half free-kick from Central Coast Mariners right-back Pedj Bojic at AAMI Park this afternoon, as the visitors frustrated the Red and White with a regimented display.
On an afternoon where the Mariners disciplined approach limited opportunities, Heart created enough openings to have snatched at least a point, but were made to rue missed chances and were hampered by injuries to three key players.
John Aloisi-s side set out to consolidate their unbeaten home record, which had extended to eight matches, and to record the Club-s first three points on home soil.
But the Mariners, who entered the match smarting from a 2-1 loss in the F3 derby against Newcastle Jets last week, had other ideas.
Well-organised, Graham Arnold-s side set out to nullify Heart-s dangerous midfield trio of Richard Garcia, Matt Thompson and captain Fred, and the visitor-s game plan was effective.
Heart welcomed stalwart Simon Colosimo back into central defence, while Aloisi handed young teenager Ben Garuccio a starting berth.
Garuccio was lively and appeared up to the task with some fine footwork, but as so regularly in recent weeks, it was man-of-the-match Richard Garcia who threatened the opponent-s goal first.
In the 14th minute, Garcia, who is fast becoming Heart-s midfield general, lashed a fierce low drive just wide of Matt Ryan-s right-hand upright as he looked to squeeze his shot into the far corner.
Patrick Gerhardt was calm and composed on the ball and recorded another fine display in central defence alongside Colosimo and the duo saw plenty of the ball as Heart were forced to retain possession in its own half.
Heart pushed and probed, attempting to feed Garuccio and David Williams down the flanks, but suffered a blow when it lost central striker and target man Dylan Macallister to a rib injury in the 36th minute.
Josip Tadic entered the fray and as Heart compensated for the change, Clint Bolton was called into action, producing a fine reflex save to deny Tomas Rogic and keep the sides level in the first half.
Half-time brought another forced change as captain Fred was replaced with a hamstring complaint and winger Mate Dugandzic was injected into the match.
With the team beset with two injuries to key players, Mariners took advantage early in the second period as Pedj Bojic stepped up to produce a sensational free-kick, which proved the match winner in a game of limited opportunities.
Playing a quick one-two with Mile Sterjovski, Bojic curled a right-footed strike that Bolton could only reach with his fingertips as it nestled in the back of the net.
Heart looked to rebound quickly and despite the organised Mariners, Tadic was presented with a golden opportunity to equalise in the 65th minute.
Williams fed a low cross and Tadic beat his marker, controlled with his first touch, but fired straight at Ryan who produced a save he knew little about.
Heart asked questions of the Mariners defence again seven minutes later, as right-back Michael Marrone whipped a tantalising cross to Garcia, whose diving header was blocked by Ryan.
Heart suffered a third injury as Thompson was removed with a corked thigh and as the clock ticked down to the final whistle, the equaliser remained elusive.
Despite the result, Aloisi was encouraged by his side-s effort and performance.
“In terms of performance, they [the Mariners] made it difficult for us and made sure they didn-t concede,” Aloisi said.
“In saying that, I think that we probably created more chances than the Mariners normally concede. We created three great openings inside 10 yards but just couldn-t find the back of the net.
“We did find it hard to break them down. They-re well organised, we expected a hard game. We-re disappointed we didn-t get anything out of it, because I think that we deserved something.”
Melbourne Heart 0
Central Coast Mariners 1 (Bojic 51-)
AAMI Park, Victoria
Melbourne Heart: 1. Clint BOLTON (Gk), 2. Michael MARRONE, 4. Simon COLOSIMO, 5. FRED (c) (23. Mate DUGANDZIC 46-), 6. Patrick GERHARDT, 8. Matt THOMPSON (18. David VRANKOVIC 69-), 9. Dylan MACALLISTER (10. Josip TADIC 37-), 11. Richard GARCIA, 15. David WILLIAMS, 16. Aziz BEHICH, 19. Ben GARRUCCIO
Substitutes not used: 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (Gk)
Yellow cards: Colosimo 41-, Garcia 59-, Vrankovic 86-
Red cards: None
Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (Gk), 2. Daniel MCBREEN, 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON (c) (5. Zachary ANDERSON 90+2), 10. Tomas ROGIC (12. Troy HEARFIELD 75-), 14. Michael MCGLINCHEY, 16. Trent SAINSBURY, 18. Nick MONTGOMERY, 21. Mile STERJOVSKI (9. Bernie IBINI 65-)
Substitutes not used: 20. Justin PASFIELD (Gk)
Yellow cards: McBreen 39-
Red cards: None
Referee: Chris BEATH