Flores double earns Mariners draw

Two cool, calm penalties from Argentine ace Marcos Flores ensured Central Coast Mariners claimed a 2-2 draw with Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park on Saturday.

Two cool, calm penalties from Argentine ace Marcos Flores ensured Central Coast Mariners claimed a 2-2 draw with Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park on Saturday.

After a goalless first 45, the game between Melbourne and the Mariners came to life in the second stanza with Heart attacker David Williams netting in the 52nd and 60th minutes to give John Aloisi-s side a handy lead.

However Graham Arnold-s men showed fantastic fighting spirit to earn a valuable competition point from their trip to the Victorian capital, with Flores firing beyond Heart custodian Andrew Redmayne from 12 yards in the 71st and 77th minutes respectively to restore parity to the contest.

The first half was a largely scrappy affair with both sides struggling to find fluency in their play early in the new season. However, either side could well have gone to the break at least a goal to the good, with Iain Ramsay striking the side netting for the home team, while Trent Sainsbury hit the woodwork for the Mariners with a looping header.

But it was in the second period that the 8,734 attendees at Melbourne-s impressive AAMI Park got their money-s worth.

Just seven minutes into the second stanza, former Socceroo Williams made the most of an opportunity from close range after Mariners custodian Justin Pasfield could only manage to parry Golgol Mebrahtu-s powerful shot from outside the box.

Nick Fitzgerald could have put the Mariners level in the 59th minute, however his shot from Storm Roux-s centre whizzed over Redmayne-s bar.

Fitzgerald-s miss was capitalised on by Heart less than 60 seconds later as Mebrahtu and Ramsay combined to open another chance for Williams. The ex Brondby Copenhagen man made no mistake from close range, lashing his shot into the back of the net.

Since the start of the Hyundai A-League 2012/13 season the Mariners have conceded the first goal in a match nine times, but only lost four of those fixtures. And, the Club-s fighting qualities and determination not to lose were on display again on a near perfect playing surface in the Victorian capital.

With 20 minutes remaining referee Ben Williams spotted a Heart infringement from a Mariners corner, subsequently awarding Arnold-s charges a spot-kick. Keeping his strike low Flores guided the ball beyond Redmayne to make the score 2-1.

And just five minutes later Flores would be given another chance to score from the spot. Mitchell Duke-s cross struck the arm of Melbourne substitute Patrick Gerhardt, with referee Williams again awarding a penalty. Flores stayed composed to send the ball beyond Redmayne once again to give the Mariners hope of snatching what just minutes earlier seemed like an extremely unlikely victory.

The final ten minutes of the encounter were edgy, with both Arnold-s outfit and Aloisi-s boys keen on securing a late winner. Mariners left back Joshua Rose struck a shot from another Roux cross over the bar, while Pasfield pulled off a wonder save from point-blank range to deny Williams his hat-trick and Heart the win.

After three minutes of additional time, Ben Williams called time on a contest which after a relatively bland opening transformed into a tense four-goal thriller.

Post match, Central Coast Mariners Head Coach Graham Arnold praised his team-s determination to gain a point from the clash.

“It was a very disappointing first half of football,” Arnold said. “But obviously the second half was more lively with four goals scored and a host of opportunities created.”

“The main thing we take from the game is that we showed some great fighting spirit to come back to two-all. After that, we had half chances to win the game, as did Heart.”

“We have to go home happy with a point, but we-ll need to keep working hard to ensure we find our rhythm over the coming rounds.”

Central Coast Mariners host Adelaide United in Hyundai A-League 2013/14 round 3 on Saturday 26 October. Kick-off at Bluetongue Stadium is at 5:30pm, with the Mariners playing in pink in support of women-s cancer research, prevention, and support services.

Melbourne Heart 2 (Williams 52-, 60-) Central Coast Mariners 2 (Flores (pen) 71-, (pen) 77-) AAMI Park, Melbourne

Melbourne Heart: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (Gk), 3. Rob WIELAERT, 7. Iain RAMSAY, 8. Massimo MURDOCCA, 14. Golgol MEBRAHTU, 15. David WILLIAMS, 16. Aziz BEHICH, 17. Jason HOFFMAN, 23. Mate DUGANDZIC, 24. Patrick KISNORBO, 25. Andrea MIGLIORINI (6. Patrick GERHARDT 75-) Substitutes not used: 19. Ben GARUCCIO, 20. Tando VELAPHI (Gk), 21. Stefan MAUK, 22. Nick KALMAR Yellow cards: Kisnorbo Red cards: Nil

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Justin PASFIELD (Gk), 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Marcel SEIP, 7. John HUTCHINSON (C), 8. Nick MONTGOMERY, 9. Mitchell DUKE, 10. Marcos FLORES, 11. Nick FITZGERALD (14. Michael MCGLINCHEY 61-), 15. Storm ROUX, 16. Trent SAINSBURY, 21. Mile STERJOVSKI (19. Matt SIMON 61-) Substitutes not used: 5. Zachary ANDERSON, 12. Liam REDDY (Gk), 17. Anthony CACERES Yellow cards: Simon Red cards: Nil

Attendance: 8,734 Referee: Ben Williams