Melbourne Heart's A-League debut has been marred by the Central Coast Mariners in front of 11,050 fans at AAMI Park. The Mariners won the contest 1-0 thanks to a first-half header from Alex Wilkinson to give new coach Graham Arnold his first win as the Heart started their competitive career with a narrow loss.
Melbourne Heart: 0 Central Coast Mariners: 1 (Alex Wilkinson 16')
Venue: AAMI Park Crowd: 11,050 Referee: Chris Beath Yellow cards:MH - Dean Heffernan 72', Aziz Behich 86' CCM - Pedj Bojic 1', John Hutchinson 36', Matt Simon 73'
An historic event in Melbourne began with a yellow card to Mariners defender Pedj Bojic within the first 30 seconds but it was all positive from the side making their A-League debut with the Heart creating the first real chance with speedy Brazilian striker Alex Terra forcing Mariners keeper Jess Vanstrattan into a fumbling save.
The Heart were showing their Dutch influence by keeping possession of the ball with fluent movement but the Mariners struck first through captain Alex Wilkinson who managed to lose defender Michael Marrone and nod home a John Hutchinson corner from the back post.
The visitors grabbed the ascendency after the goal with most of the play occurring down their end as the Heart went slightly into their shells but they were inches away from an equaliser on the half-hour mark when Michael Beauchamp tried to make the most of a goalmouth scramble with a reflex shot but unfortunately it looped over the crossbar.
The Mariners defence were pressing hard and causing the Heart to lose the ball in midfield which was making things hard from a scoring sense and they had to make do with a one-goal deficit at the break.
After the re-start, the Heart opened with a golden chance in the 53rd minute when Matt Thompson found Gerald Sibon from the left flank but the big Dutchman could not curl his shot enough to trouble Vanstrattan and it flew past the upright.
The Heart continued to turn the ball over in the early stages of the second half so coach John van 't Schip made his first change just prior to the hour-mark and substitute Aziz Behich was busy as soon as he replaced Rutger Worm, turning his defender in the area before attempting to play the ball into the path of Sibon.
Alex Terra was looking extremely dangerous as the home side pushed for a leveller as most of the Mariners' creativity looked to be drying up. The Heart were building slowly and looked the more likely of the two sides to score in the second term especially when Sibon took a free-kick from way outside the area but they could not break down the Mariners defence and the match ended 1-0 to the visitors.
MH Clint Bolton (gk), Michael Marrone, Simon Colosimo, Michael Beauchamp, Matt Thompson, Rutger Worm (Behich 58'), Gerald Sibon, Alex Terra, Josip Skoko (Babalj 68'), Nick Kalmar (Hamill 73'), Dean Heffernan
Subs - Peter Zois (gk), Brendan Hamill (73'), Eli Babalj (68'), Aziz Behich (58')
CCM Jess Vanstrattan (gk), Daniel McBreen (Mrdja 90+2'), Pedj Bojic, Brad Porter, Patrick Zwaanswijk, John Hutchinson, Oliver Bozanic, Michael McGlinchey, Alex Wilkinson, Matt Simon, Adam Kwasnik (Griffiths 67')