March 30, 2013
Mariners eye finals after beating Heart
Central Coast will carry momentum into the A-League finals after beating a 10-man Melbourne Heart 2-1 at Bluetongue Stadium.
With the Premiers' Plate already secured by Western Sydney on Friday, Graham Arnold played a severely under-strength side but the Mariners still inflicted a dismal end to a disappointing season on the Jets.
Arnold made seven changes to the squad that beat Adelaide last week in an effort to rest key players ahead of their upcoming hectic schedule.
The Mariners take on Chinese club Guizhou Renhe in Gosford on Wednesday before playing them away on April 9 before hosting their A-League semi-final five days later.
Daniel McBreen opened the scoring on Saturday after Heart defender Patrick Gerhardt was sent off for a contentious hand ball in the box, gifting the Mariners a first-half penalty.
Mitchell Duke doubled the hosts' advantage in the second half with Richard Garcia getting a late consolation for the visitors, scoring the Heart's first goal outside Melbourne in 499 minutes.
Veteran striker McBreen now looks on track for the golden boot award, scoring his 17th goal of the season to extend his lead at the top of the scorers' list ahead of Wellington's Jeremy Brockie, who needs to bag at least a double against Melbourne Victory on Sunday to claim the title.
Arnold was not only left pleased with his charges' effort on Saturday, but with what he feels has been their strongest season.
"If you look at the stats, we're a better side than what we were last year," he said.
"We finished with 54 points and last year we had 51 and we won it (the minor premiership).
"We scored more goals than last year and conceded less goals, and we lost the least amount of games in the league.
"It took a side who got 34 points out of 36 to beat us over the line, but that's life," he said of the Wanderers, who won a remarkable 11 games out of the last 12.
For John Aloisi, the story couldn't be any more different.
The Heart are now staring down the barrel of the dreaded wooden spoon in his first year as head coach, sitting equal on points with fellow battlers Wellington.
Making matters worse the coach was left fuming after Gerhardt's red card, himself sent off for dissent for arguing with the referee - a penalty that could have him suspended from Heart's first game of next season.
"It was very disappointing because we ended up losing the last five games. With a couple of wins we may have been playing next week," a dejected Aloisi said.
"Before the red card ... we were well and truly in the game.
"I think everyone in the stadium saw he didn't hand-ball it, except the referee.
"It's very hard not to get upset in situations like that. If I don't, it means I don't care and I care.
"I don't want to lose. I don't want to finish at the bottom of the table and now Melbourne Heart may finish bottom."
|Central Coast Mariners||Melbourne Heart|
|20 Justin Pasfield||1 Clint Bolton|
|6 Patrick Zwaanswijk||4 Simon Colosimo|
|4 Pedj Bojic||21 Jamie Coyne|
|13 Brent Griffiths||6 Patrick Gerhart|
|5 Zachary Anderson||11 Richard Garcia|
|15 Brad McDonald||16 Marcel Meeuwis|
|11 Oliver Bozanic||8 Matt Thompson|
|26 Nick Fitzgerald||24 Sam Mitchinson|
|17 Anthony Caceres||19 Ben Garuccio|
|2 Daniel McBreen||10 Josip Tadic|
|21 Mile Sterjovski||15 David Williams|
|1 Matthew Ryan||Andrew Redmayne 20|
|8 Adriano Pellegrino||Jason Hoffman 17|
|24 Hayden Morton||D Macallister 9|
|19 Mitchell Duke||Eli Babalj 36|
|Mitchell Duke for Nick Fitzgerald (61)||Jason Hoffman for Marcel Meeuwis (41)|
|Adriano Pellegrino for Anthony Caceres (69)||D Macallister for Josip Tadic (57)|
|Hayden Morton for Brent Griffiths (89)||Eli Babalj for Simon Colosimo (89)|
|Anthony Caceres (20)||Richard Garcia (46)|
|Zachary Anderson (87)||David Williams (82)|
|Patrick Gerhart (34)|
|· Squads: Central Coast Mariners | Melbourne Heart|