Retiring veterans John Aloisi and Josip Skoko were both denied a fairytale ending to their careers when their Melbourne Heart drew 2-2 with Sydney FC tonight. The pair, along with Dutchman Gerald Sibon who was sent off on the stroke of half-time for two soft yellow cards, were playing their last matches for the club and were only a few minutes off getting a victory only for Nick Carle to intervene at the death.
Carle opened the scoring when he dispatched a penalty in the 35th minute after Skoko had pulled back Hiro Moriyasu in the area before Heart's Dutch winger Rutger Worm fired his side back on level terms six minutes later.
John Aloisi almost closed the curtain on his wonderful career when he scored in the 62nd minute with a curling shot from inside the box but Carle grabbed his second in the dying stages to deny a dream finish.
The point allowed Melbourne to finish in eighth position in their debut season as Sydney finished a single point behind them in ninth as they now prepare themselves for the Asian Champions League.
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne Crowd: 6,019 Referee: Ben Williams Yellow cards:MH - Wayne Srhoj 20', Josip Skoko 34', Gerald Sibon 29'/45', John Aloisi 62' SYD - Terry McFlynn 45+1' Red card:MH - Gerald Sibon 45'
The Heart fans had turned up to say goodbye to Josip Skoko, John Aloisi and Gerald Sibon who were all playing their final match for the club - the first two retiring from the game whilst Sibon's future is still up in the air.
And it almost began in the most perfect fashion when Aloisi controlled a Sydney clearance with his left thigh before lashing on goal with a volley which dipped onto the crossbar in just the fourth minute.
Sibon almost set up Aloisi a couple of minutes later as the Heart pushed forward with regularity before the big Dutchman's shot from the top of the area skimmed the side netting in the 10th minute after first-starter Kamal Ibrahim dazzled with his run down the left.
After a busy start, the match died down a bit in the mid-stages of the half before the Heart managed to break open the Sydney defence when Wayne Srhoj played Aloisi in but the outgoing veteran could not wrap enough of his right foot around the ball, allowing Sky Blues keeper Liam Reddy to make a simple save.
In the 34th minute, referee Ben Williams awarded a penalty to the visitors when Skoko pulled down Hiro Moriyasu in the area. GOAL Nick Carle stepped up to the spot and put a dampener on the evening by smashing the ball into the left side of the net, sending Heart's Clint Bolton the wrong way.
Finnish striker Juho Makela almost made it 2-0 in the 38th minute when he beat a few Heart defenders off before turning and shooting goalward but his shot flew over the top of the bar just before the Heart struck back in the 41st minute.
GOAL Skoko dispossessed Carle about 25 yards out with Sibon taking the loose ball. He then played a lovely through ball for Rutger Worm who slammed it home into the roof of the net with an angled shot.
Moments later, Sibon went slightly wide with his attempt a minute or so before he was sent off for a second bookable offence when he kicked the ball forward after Sydney had been awarded a free-kick. Sibon's first yellow came for dissent just before the half-hour mark with referee Williams clearly having no sense for the occasion before the whistle.
Sydney started the second half brightly with their one-man advantage and managed to hit the back of the net in the 53rd minute when Scott Jamieson's free-kick was headed home by Bruno Cazarine but the linesman flagged for off-side thankfully from a Heart point of view.
Sydney substitute Sung-Hwan Byun let go a powerfully-driven shot in the 60th minute which forced Bolton to fumble before the Heart made it 2-1 much to the delight of the AAMI Park fans.
GOAL Aloisi brought the house down when he received the deflection from Srhoj's shot, after he originally played him in, and curled it home past Bolton, getting a caution for taking his shirt off in customary fashion following the iconic moment from the World Cup-qualifying penalty from 2005. It was his eighth goal for the season making him the Heart's leading scorer.
Skoko made way for Michael Beauchamp in the 70th minute and was given a standing ovation when he came off and you could just sense that the Heart would hold on for a dream win even though there was still 20 minutes remaining.
Bolton was called on to make a fine save in the 79th minute when a ball from the right was flicked on by Cazarine but the former Sydney man got a hand to it as the Heart defence cleared before he made a fundamental save from Jamieson's right-foot attempt moments later.
Aloisi came off in the 83rd minute, also to a standing ovation, but the result was wrecked when Carle controlled brilliantly after a bit of aerial ping pong, brought it down with his chest and angled it past Bolton for the equalizing GOAL with two minutes remaining.
MH Clint Bolton (gk), Michael Marrone, Simon Colosimo, Matt Thompson, Aziz Behich, Wayne Srhoj, Josip Skoko (Beauchamp 70'), Rutger Worm (Kalmar 73'), Kamal Ibrahim, Gerald Sibon, John Aloisi (Sarkies 83')
Subs - Peter Zois (gk), Michael Beauchamp (70'), Nick Kalmar (73'), Kristian Sarkies (83')