Melbourne Victory's finals hopes are hanging by a thread after they were held to a draw by bottom-placed Gold Coast United in monsoonal rain at Skilled Park.
Melbourne Victory's finals hopes are hanging by a thread after they were held to a 1-1 draw by bottom-placed Gold Coast United in monsoonal rain at Skilled Park on Saturday night.
For the second time in four days, an undermanned and resolute Gold Coast side were able to grind out a result against a much more fancied opponent.
Maceo Rigters scored against the run of play in the 51st minute to put the hosts ahead, but six minutes later Carlos Hernandez leveled the scores with a rocket into the bottom corner.
Victory had plenty of chances to put away Mike Mulvey's youngsters from there on, but United gloveman Jerrad Tyson thrived in the wet conditions and kept his team in the game with a series of remarkable saves.
The draw leaves Victory in eighth position on the ladder, four points behind sixth-placed rivals Melbourne Heart and with a far worse goal difference.
With only four matches to go, Jim Magilton's men can now no longer afford to slip up as the race for finals spots intensifies.
That task will be far more difficult now after captain Adrian Leijer (hip) was ruled out for the rest of the season just before kick-off.
The match was played under a cloud of controversy, with Gold Coast sporting the words 'Freedom of Speech' on their jerseys and on signage at the Skilled Park without permission from FFA.
That led the governing body to advise the Clive Palmer-owned United that they were in breach of their Club Participation Agreement, which will set up another few days of controversy on the tourist strip.
Then their off-field dramas were mirrored on the pitch when in-form wonderkid Ben Halloran succumbed to a hip injury, coming off after just 14 minutes following an early collision with Mark Milligan.
With their key attacking spark gone and the rain tumbling down at Robina, the hosts spent much of the first half on the back foot.
Victory had a decent shout for a red card to Tyson turned down by first-game referee Regis Queffelec, when the Gold Coast custodian collided with Archie Thompson just outside of the box early on.
Their best chances in the first stanza were long-range efforts from Hernandez and stand-in skipper Harry Kewell, but neither could find the back of the net.
But after the interval they were right back at it, with Thompson's 49th minute effort stopped by Tyson, who was dealing with the monsoonal conditions incredibly well.
A couple of minutes later Gold Coast made the visitors pay for their inability to convert their chances when Rigters tucked away his fourth goal of the season.
Melbourne's defence was exposed once again as United passed their way into position, with second-gamer Jake Barker-Daish providing the pass for the bullocking Dutchman to score from close range.
United's 1-0 lead didn't last long though, as Hernandez almost put a hole in the back of the net to cap off rapid counter-attack in the 57th minute.
The Costa Rican's finish was emphatic but the assist from Thompson was equally exquisite, with the striker showing great vision to find his team-mate with the perfect pass.
The visitors continued to pepper Tyson's goal - but when they weren't wide of the mark, the young shotstopper was in the way.
In the 80th minute, Victory looked certain to go ahead when Thompson got around Zac Anderson and pulled the trigger - but Tyson made a stunning reflex save allowing the hosts to scramble to safety.
A spirited United held their nerve despite being under siege in a frantic final 10 minutes, securing their second consecutive draw at home.
Gold Coast United 1 (Rigters 51) Melbourne Victory 1 (Hernandez 57) Crowd: 2109 at Skilled Park, Robina