Melbourne Victory have produced a topsy-turvy performance to eventually be held 2-2 by Central Coast Mariners at AAMI Park. The Victory were inefficient for most of the match until a spell of positive play saw them score twice within two minutes midway through the second half through Roddy Vargas and a stunning Carlos Hernandez free-kick after Daniel McBreen had put the Mariners ahead just before the half-hour mark.
But for all their good work, Melbourne surrendered their lead when their defence was reduced to a shambles to gift the visitors a leveler with 12 minutes left after a corner was poorly cleared by Grant Brebner, deflecting into goalkeeper Michael Petkovic for an own goal.
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne Crowd: 9,674 Referee: Gerard Parsons Yellow cards:MV - Adrian Leijer 44', Grant Brebner 53' CCM - Daniel McBreen 60'
The opening 10 or so minutes provided some very open football from both sides with the Mariners slightly shading the home team in terms of possession but it was the Victory who looked more dangerous with Archie Thompson in a very positive mood.
After an initial flourish of attacking play, the players went to sleep until Thompson again got things happening with two half chances in quick succession just after the 15-minute mark.
The Victory were pressing very hard and really should have made the most of a few minutes of domination but their desperation to score went against them when the Mariners broke on the counter.
Skipper Alex Wilkinson dispossessed Marvin Angulo in defence before looking up and spotting a long ball into the path of Daniel McBreen who seemingly had acres of space. GOAL The big striker controlled with his head before slamming home on his left past Michael Petkovic who really should have done more than just stand and wait.
Melbourne went close to getting one back about six minutes before the break when Mariners keeper Matthew Ryan spilled Carlos Hernandez's corner in the middle of the six yard box but Angulo could only knock the rebound wide of the waiting goals as the first half ended without much ado.
Melbourne were again making all the running early in the second half but were very wasteful with Angulo and Thompson not making the most of guilt-edged chances.
GOAL It wasn't a very pretty performance from the home side but at least they managed to get a leveler when Billy Celeski played a speculative long ball to the back post where Kevin Muscat was on hand to direct his header back into a crowded area. Fellow defender Adrian Leijer nodded goalwards, allowing a third defensive player, Roddy Vargas, to flick on from close range to make it 1-1 just after the hour-mark.
GOAL Less than a minute later, Mariners defender Pedj Bojic brought down Robbie Kruse outside the area and referee Gerard Parsons awarded a free-kick to the Victory. Carlos Hernandez stepped up to the plate and curled a 20-yard shot into the top left corner from a dead ball situation to give Ernie Merrick's men an unlikely lead.
Confidence immediately rose for the home side as the AAMI Park fans finally got into full voice and a third was on the cards when Angulo and Thompson were involved in a neat piece of play which ended with Hernandez unleashing from the edge of the area but fortunately for the Mariners Ryan was up to the task and made a crucial save.
GOAL Somehow the Mariners got themselves an equalizer with just over ten minutes left when Michael McGlinchey sent in a corner which bounced off an unsuspecting Wilkinson. The ball trickled towards the goal, forcing Petkovic into a save but when Grant Brebner attempted to clear off the line under pressure from Adam Kwasnik, his wild hack bounced off the leg of a falling Petkovic and in for a goal.
With seven minutes remaining, the Victory had the perfect opportunity to again go ahead when Tom Pondeljak found Kruse with a pinpoint cross but the striker's unchallenged header could only slide past the upright when it really should have hit the back of the net.
Melbourne pushed desperately hard for a winner but came up short as they had to settle for a draw. The point kept them in sixth position on the table as the Mariners went a point clear of Gold Coast United in third.
MV Michael Petkovic (gk), Kevin Muscat, Leigh Broxham, Grant Brebner, Archie Thompson (Ferreira 77'), Marvin Angulo, Roddy Vargas, Billy Celeski (Pondeljak 79'), Carlos Hernandez (Dugandzic 84'), Robbie Kruse, Adrian Leijer
Subs - Sebastian Mattei (gk), Diogo Ferreira (77'), Tom Pondeljak (79'), Mate Dugandzic (84')
CCM Matthew Ryan (gk), Daniel McBreen (Lewis 90'), Joshua Rose, Pedj Bojic, Patrick Zwaanswijk, Rostyn Griffiths, Oliver Bozanic, Michael McGlinchey, Alex Wilkinson, Matt Simon, Mustafa Amini (Kwasnik 71')
Subs - Paul Henderson (gk), Adam Kwasnik (71'), Matthew Lewis (90'), Chris Doig