A strong Central Coast Mariners side recorded a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Melbourne Heart in their National Youth League clash.
A strong Central Coast Mariners side recorded a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Melbourne Heart in their National Youth League clash at John Cain Memorial Park on Saturday.
In an eventful game, the Heart took the lead early through Stipo Andrijasevic before a powerful Mitchell Duke strike and a cool finish from Daniel Bragg put the visitors ahead before half-time.
Despite the sending off of Stefan Mauk midway through the second half, the Heart had several chances to equalise but could not take them as the Mariners held on for a well-deserved win.
Heart kicked off in blustery conditions and began the game brightly thanks largely to the influence of speedy winger Golgol Mebrahtu.
The former Gold Coast United man was the home side's most dangerous player, with his skilful runs causing Mariners left-back Michael Neill all sorts of problems.
And the 22-year-old played a decisive role in the opening goal, with his ball into the box eventually finding its way to Andrijasevic at the back post.
The winger was able to calmly place the ball into the far corner to give his side the lead after just five minutes.
Mebrahtu should have added his name to the scoresheet seven minutes later after he was found inside the box by Jeremy Walker but his first-time shot fizzed over the bar.
The Heart were soon made to pay for that missed chance when Mariners striker Duke slammed the ball into the top corner after dribbling past two defenders to level the scores 15 minutes in.
The home side then made matters worse for themselves after 31 minutes when a horribly misplaced pass from defender Andrew Mullett left Bragg one-on-one with Alastair Bray.
The midfielder kept his cool, delicately lobbing the Heart 'keeper from the edge of the area to give his side the lead.
Senior midfielders Adriano Pellegrino and Oliver Bozanic started to control the game for the Mariners and, despite losing Duke to injury, the away side went into half-time ahead.
The second half was a much tamer affair with a string of substitutions not allowing either side to enjoy any rhythm in possession.
However, it all changed when Heart were presented with two chances in a minute.
Ersin Kaya saw his shot deflect away for a corner before Zac Walker volleyed just over the bar from 20 yards.
It sparked the game into life, with the Mariners unable to take advantage of an even better chance to score on 64 minutes when Patrick Dixon broke clear of two markers on the edge of the box, only for his shot to be brilliantly saved by Bray.
The Heart had more chances through a William Abbott header and an Andrijasevic strike but neither had any conviction and both were easily held by Mariners 'keeper David Bradasevic.
But despite looking likely to score, the Heart were again their own worst enemy with Mauk picking up his second yellow card of the game for diving in the 77th minute.
From there, the Mariners took control and despite presenting their opponents with some late chances, they were able to hold on for what was an encouraging win.
Melbourne Heart 1 (Stipo Andrijasevic 5) Central Coast Mariners 2 (Mitchell Duke 15, Daniel Bragg 31)
Melbourne Heart: 1. Alastair Bray, Jeremy Walker (Evan Batsis '85), Sam Mitchinson, Andrew Mullett, Abbott, Josh Groenewald, Evan Batsis (Zac Walker), Stefan Mauk, Golgol Mebrahtu (Ersin Kaya '45), Philip Petreski & Stipo Andrijasevic. (subs) Chris Maynard, Paulo Retre
Central Coast: David Bradasevic, Nikola Stanojevic, Michael Neill (Jordan Crighton 54), Kieren Paull, Daniel Bragg (Tomislav Cirjak 59), Adam Jenner, Adriano Pellegrino, Adam Kwasnik, Oliver Bozanic, Brent Griffiths, Mitchell Duke (Patrick Dixon 35).