An Adam Kwasnik winner in the 89th minute and a defiant performance from goalkeeper Matthew Ryan helped Central Coast Mariners pinch a 1-0 win against Melbourne Heart on Wednesday night.
An Adam Kwasnik winner in the 89th minute and a defiant performance from goalkeeper Matthew Ryan helped Central Coast Mariners pinch a 1-0 win against Melbourne Heart
Heart controlled almost the entire match but their failure to convert their numerous chances came back to bight them as Kwasnik sealed the deal to get the Mariners out of jail at AAMI Park.
In a free-flowing match Ryan heroically blunted Heart's attacking moves - most of which came from striker Alex Terra.
The result extends the Mariners' club record 14-match unbeaten streak while the Heart remain winless from their past four games.
Terra was outstanding with his mazy runs down the left flank but the Heart will be left to rue a wasted night after outplaying the Hyundai A-League leaders for virtually the full 90 minutes.
The Mariners might be runaway leaders in the Hyundai A-League but it didn't stop coach John van 't Schip from resting striker Eli Babalj and leaving Mate Dugandzic on the bench.
However it was the home side that made all of the running.
Referee Strebre Delovski reached for his yellow card twice within in a frenetic opening 10 minutes. First it was Alex Wilkinson who illegally took down Michael Marrone as he had found space just outside the box and youngster Jason Hoffman was pinged for simulating a dive shortly after.
The Heart dominated the first half but as desperate as they were they couldn't find the back of the net.
Terra went close twice, firstly in the 13th minute when he was one on one with Mariners stopper Ryan but couldn't quite finish.
He then had the crowd on their feet halfway through the first stanza when he pulled the trigger from 25 yards. The shot beat a leaping Ryan but crashed into the top of the right-hand post.
Ryan was called upon again two minutes later when Aziz Behich's aimed a header at the corner. The keeper was equal to the task and another chance went begging for the Heart.
If the Mariners were counting on the hosts running out of gas in the second half they were sorely mistaken.
It was left to a red-hot Ryan to again save their skin as Terra and Behich threatened to give Heart the lead through the second half.
But the visitors, sensing an improbable victory, pressed hard for an unlikely winner and found it when Michael McClinchey twisted his way down the field and sent a left-footed ball to Kwasnik who put the ball neatly in the back of the net.
The Heart desperately hunted an equaliser in injury time but the Mariners held their nerves to round out a lucky win.
Melbourne Heart 0 Central Coast Mariners 1 (Kwasnik 89)