John Aloisi feels his beaten Melbourne Heart players did well to carve out chances against a stubborn Central Coast Mariners side.
John Aloisi feels his beaten Melbourne Heart players did well to carve out chances against a stubborn Central Coast Mariners team at AAMI Park on Sunday.
A compact Mariners outfit denied Heart space and grabbed all three points thanks to Pedj Bojic's second-half free-kick in a tight Hyundai A-League encounter.
Heart should have equalised through substitute Josip Tadic, who was denied from close range by onrushing Central Coast goalkeeper Mathew Ryan.
Midfielder Richard Garcia also went close twice, shooting across the face of goal early in the first half before heading straight at Ryan with less than 20 minutes to go in the second period.
"They made it difficult for us, they came here and sat off, made sure they didn't concede too many chances," Aloisi said.
"In saying that, we probably created more chances than the Mariners normally concede.
"We created three great openings inside 10 yards, just couldn't find the back of the net. And we conceded a goal that was a 'worldie' (world class).
"They had a good chance in the first half and that was the only real save Clint (Bolton) had to make."
Aloisi believes there is no shame in his team coming up short against last season's premiers, who have a deserved reputation for their organised, determined approach to the game.
"We did find it hard to break them down, but they're a good side and they're well organised," he said.
"That's why Arnie (Graham Arnold)'s been top of the table last year and made the grand final the year before. We expected that, we expected a hard game from them. They gave it to us but (we are) disappointed we didn't get anything out of it because we deserved something."
According to Aloisi, the loss of midfield playmaker Fred to a hamstring complaint, combined with Dylan MacAllister's departure due to injury, seriously hampered his team's ability to penetrate the opposition.
"Probably today we didn't have that forward run that we like," he said.
"I thought against Wellington we did, it was a little bit unlucky that Fred felt his hammy (hamstring) after 10 minutes, because he does give us that forward run.
"We know what Dylan gives us when he comes toward the ball, he creates that space in behind and then usually our midfielders and wingers will run in behind."
Heart supporters can at least take some consolation from the promising debut performance of wide-man Ben Garuccio, who started ahead of the rested Mate Dugandzic.
"Benny's been doing well in training, he's pretty direct," Aloisi said.
"We wanted to keep some width on the left and Benny could give us that.
"Mate had a disruptive pre-season, he came in late and I thought it was time for him to come back into it next week.
"He looked sharp when he came on and I'm sure he'll be better for not starting today."
Next up for Heart is a trip to face Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday night, with their hosts sure to be buoyant after registering a first ever A-League victory at the expense of reigning champions Brisbane Roar.