Adam Kwasnik’s 89th minute winner gave the Central Coast Mariners all three points on Wednesday night, opening up an almost unassailable gap at the top on the A-League.
Heart will feel hard done by not to have taken any points from this game as they dominated the vast majority of the match. A combination of poor finishing and excellent goalkeeping by Matt Ryan allowed the Mariners to claim the undeserved victory, despite being the poorer team on the night.
With Eli Babalj being rested and Mate Dugandzic starting on the bench, many people wondered where Heart would find their firepower from. However this didn’t seem to have any effect on Heart who came out all guns blazing.
Alex Terra was the largest of many thorns in Central Coast’s side, the striker came agonizingly close to scoring twice in the opening 15 minutes. First Terra was denied by an outstanding save from Mariners’ keeper Matt Ryan after a wonderful solo run, then the Brazilian was thwarted by the wood work as his screaming shot from outside the area crashed into the top right corner of the crossbar.
Heart’s dominance continued as the Mariner’s scrambled to deal with the onslaught. David Williams, Rutger Worm, and Jason Hoffman all combined well, but no one was able to break the deadlock.
Melbourne’s left back, Aziz Behich, even thought he would try his luck on one of his many forays into the forward line. Behich latched on to the end on a Heart attack and angled a header downwards, hoping to confuse Ryan with the bounce. However, Ryan was quick to react and his fingertip save stopped the ball from going in under the crossbar.
The half ended with Central Coast registering only one shot on goal. If the league leaders hoped that Heart would run out of puff in the second half, they were sorely mistaken. Heart controlled possession and were only kept out by their own lack of finishing, something which Manager John van’t Schip will be sure to address in training.
Worm’s vicious half-volley rocketed straight into Ryan, whilst Behich missed a golden opportunity a few minutes later. Finding himself alone at the far post, Behich took far too long to shoot, and when he finally did his effort was comfortably saved by Ryan.
Graham Arnold then looked to his bench for inspiration, replacing the ineffective Mustafa Imini with Rostyn Griffiths. Griffiths’ introduction did appear to have a positive effect on the Mariners, however they were still being beaten all over the park.
A Kristian Sarkies corner baffled everyone and after a tense goalmouth scramble, somehow the Mariners managed to clear the ball to safety.
Heart were then forced to rue their many previous missed opportunities in the 89th minute. Michael McGlinchley was given far too much time on the ball, and his cross swept in to find Kwasnik, who had drifted in behind an unaware Brendan Hamill. Kwasnik made no mistake and punished Heart for their profligacy as he netted from close range.
Heart pushed for an equalizer late in injury time, but it was not to be. Central Coast ran out 1-0 winners, when on another day may very well have lost 3-0.
The Mariners now play Adelaide United at home on Saturday, whilst Heart prepare for their third home game in 7 days against a revitalized Brisbane Roar on Saturday night.