Melbourne Heart 1 Central Coast Mariners 2
Melbourne Heart threw away a chance to close the gap on the teams above them when they conceded two second half goals to go down to defeat by Central Coast Mariners. It could have been so different had Heart followed up an outrageous strike by Orlando Engelaar from half-way which flew over the stranded Liam Reddy and just under the cross bar in the 34th minute. But the home team never looked like a side chasing a last opportunity to reach the finals as it faffed around at the back while its ostensible front runners wondered when, if ever, the ball was going to come their way. This mode of play was never going to upset the leg-weary Mariners who simply waited for the long ball or misplaced pass which often resulted and saved their energy for a second half fight back. They got a bonus through a goal in stoppage time in the first period when Matt Simon and Mile Sterjovski fed Kim Seung-Yong and the Korean midfielder finished from close range.
Sterjovski and Simon did the business up front for the Mariners until deep in the second half when coach Phil Moss brought on Benny Ibini and Mitchell Duke, both fresh and full of running. Ibini outstripped Ben Garrucio only five minutes after coming on to score the winner from a route one punt by Liam Reddy via Marcel Seip. Even after it went a goal down Heart still did not go all out for an equaliser and though it had a number of half chances these were squandered by substitute Stefan Mauk. Harry Kewell had come on with just under half an hour left, but even he could not lift the Heart. David Williams had earlier set up Engelaar but the big manâ€™s header was pushed behind for a corner by Reddy, and when the Dutchman returned the favour to Williams, the latter could just not get high enough to direct his header past Reddy, though another fruitless corner resulted.
John vanâ€™t Schip has gone on record as saying that Heart is beginning to play the attacking game he wants, but on this evidence it has a long, long way to go. Massimo Murdocca must be wondering what he has let himself in for. At Brisbane Roar he was part of a team which pressed its opponents in their own half and made every attempt to start its attacking moves from there. Now he is virtually the only one who consistently harries the opposition, while Williams, Ramsay and Dugandzic do so intermittently, which is quite useless. Ramsay is very fast on his feet, but appears to think much more slowly, and consequently misses opportunities to create openings for himself or his team-mates. Harry Kewell had an almighty clash of heads seconds after coming on, so this might have reduced his effectiveness, while young Mauk finds it difficult to pick up the pace of the game in the few minutes he has been getting and consequently struggles for composure in front of goal.
I donâ€™t like criticising young men who are giving everything for their team in difficult circumstances, but it seems clear that Heart will have to make some very hard decisions at the end of the season as to those it believes can take the club forward under the auspices of Manchester City.