Mariners break Heart

Central Coast have crashed Melbourne Heart's Hyundai A-League party, edging out the competition's new team in their first game 1-0 in front of 11,050 fans at AAMI Park on Thursday night.

Central Coast have crashed Melbourne Heart's Hyundai A-League party, edging out the competition's new team in their first game 1-0 in front of 11,050 fans at AAMI Park on Thursday night.

Heart showed plenty of strong signs but, despite dominating for periods of the game, lacked the polish to overcome a 16th-minute header from Central Coast skipper Alex Wilkinson which was enough to give the visiting team three points to open the campaign.

It is the second season in a row the Mariners have come to Melbourne in the first game of the season and walked away with a win, and the result was a great way for Graham Arnold to kick off his A-League coaching career. It was a win achieved without Argentine midfielder Patricio Perez, who withdrew with a hamstring injury.

Arnold gave his players a nine out of ten for their defensive performance and feels there is plenty of room for improvement with the ball at their feet.

"I was very proud of the boys. I felt that the first half we did very well, played good football, but we didn-t continue it through the second half. I want better with the ball and they can do better," the coach said.

While opposite number John Van 't Schip would not have been pleased with the result, there was enough in the performance to suggest Heart will make substantial improvement over the course of the season. They easily put more balls into the box than the Mariners but were let down by poor finishing and the fact they coughed up possession in key areas.

"I don-t know if we can fix those things for (next week) against Newcastle. We've only been together three weeks, and we have players coming back from injury. You need a bit of luck in a game like this and we worked very hard to get that luck, but we didn't achieve it." Van 't Schip said.

The new boys made a very positive start to the match and on three minutes, Alex Terra shot low and hard, forcing Jess Vanstrattan to fumble and then recover. Unfortunately that was the best chance the Heart created in a ten-minute period where they dominated possession.

Instead they were stung up the other end from a set piece. On 14 minutes, Wilkinson wriggled free from a corner but headed the ball straight at Clint Bolton. That warning wasn't heeded and a minute later the Mariners' captain found himself unmarked again from a John Hutchison corner.

He slotted the header with ease for just the second goal of his 111-game Hyundai A-League career and the visitors had their tails up.

Bradley Porter's cross forced a save from Bolton ten minutes later while on 27 minutes, Adam Kwasnik latched onto an error from Matt Thompson, but one-on-one with the keeper chipped hopelessly wide.

Melbourne finished the half reasonably well, with Gerald Sibon heading wide from a corner, Michael Beauchamp looping a shot over and Terra missing the target from close range.

Heart continued to create much of the attacking play after the break and eight minutes in Sibon, fed by Thompson, turned and fired narrowly wide of the post.

Substitute Aziz Behich did something similar soon after while Simon Colosimo should have done better with a close range header midway through the half.

The Mariners' chances were few and far between with Daniel McBreen firing the ball into Kwasnik's head before Matt Simon shot wide after powering through on goal.

Sibon was granted a chance from a free kick, but put it just over, while Behich curled a last-minute effort wide, typifying a frustrating debut for the Heart, who now travel to Newcastle to take on the Jets.

The Mariners' next game is against Adelaide United at Bluetongue Stadium next Sunday.

Melbourne Heart 0 Central Coast Mariners 1 (Wilkinson 16) Crowd: 11,050 at AAMI Park