Brisbane close gap on Mariners

Brisbane Roar were held to a 1-1 draw by Melbourne Heart at Suncorp Stadium to close the gap on Hyundai A-League leaders Central Coast Mariners to just two points.

Brisbane Roar were held to a 1-1 draw by Melbourne Heart at Suncorp Stadium to close the gap on Hyundai A-League leaders Central Coast Mariners to just two points.

Three points would have seen the Roar temporarily claim top spot in the Hyundai A-League, equalling league leaders Central Coast Mariners- points tally of 44 with a superior goal difference, but the current champions found on-fire Heart goalkeeper Clint Bolton in formidable form on the night.

Brisbane burst out of the blocks with confidence showing in their early passages of play.

Two minutes in, Massimo Murdocca was first to test Bolton with a powerful shot that flew off his left boot and Besart Berisha could do little more than guide the rebound into the goalkeeper-s body.

Heart were happy to play direct football on the counter attack and were almost in front before the 10 minute mark if it wasn-t for a heavy first touch from towering strikeman Eli Babalj who had the goal in clear sight in a dangerous position.

The home side were combining their trademark passing style with the occasional long range effort and it was from the latter in which they took the lead in the 32rd minute.

A strike from Thomas Broich, back in the starting eleven following a one game injury absence, was deflected away with Mitch Nichols showing impressive technique to unleash a low, driving shot into the bottom corner of the net.

However, the 22-year-old-s involvement was short-lived as he was replaced six minutes later due to a minor groin strain but Brisbane held on to keep their slim lead alive heading into the interval.

Michael Theoklitos was in fine form as the second half began, pulling off two crucial saves - first from Babalj, then from midfielder Germano - to deny the Heart an equaliser.

But there was nothing the Theoklitos could do from the resulting corner when Mate Dugandzic whipped the ball into the area and Curtis Good-s headed effort was enough to beat Brisbane No.1 at the far post.

The goal breathed new life into the Heart side and the Roar were forced to defend for long periods in the second half with Babalj again with the most notable chance for the visitors - unable to hit the target in the 77th minute after pouncing on a defensive mishap.

Brisbane heaped the pressure on in the match-s final ten minutes as the elusive second goal seemed to inch closer and closer, only to be denied by some heroic goalkeeping by veteran Bolton.

When Ryan Shepheard awarded a penalty in the third minute of stoppage time after Berisha was taken down by Melbourne-s Simon Colosimo, all 10,988 sets of eyes at Suncorp Stadium fell to Mohamed Adnan, who was quick to pick up the ball after the spot kick was given.

Adnan chose power over precision and Bolton was equal to the task, denying Brisbane in what could prove a vital result come final league ladder standings.

Post-match, Roar coach Ange Postecoglou was philosophical about the result but refused to blame the Bahraini defender, or any of his players, for failing to take all three points.

“There have been some pretty good 90 plus minute moments here over the last couple of years but the footballing gods just weren-t with us tonight,” he said.

“But that-s football and that-s just part of life and it would have been nice but it was not meant to be.

“Mohamed has taken a number of penalties for his country and is a very accomplished penalty taker.

“That-s the nature of penalties and I will never be critical of anyone who takes a penalty because the easiest thing to do when it is given is turn your back and walk to the half way line.

“It was a good save by Clint but it takes a lot of courage to get up there and I was very comfortable with him taking it.”

Brisbane Roar 1 (Mitch NICHOLS 32-) Melbourne Heart 1 (Curtis GOOD 49-) Friday, 2 March 2012 Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane Referee: Ryan Shepheard Crowd: 10,988

Brisbane Roar: 1. Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2. Matt SMITH (c), 3. Shane STEFANUTTO, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 6. Erik PAARTALU, 7. Besart BERISHA, 8. Massimo MURDOCCA, 16. Mohamed ADNAN, 17. Mitch NICHOLS (21. James MEYER 38-), 22. Thomas BROICH, 24. Nick FITZGERALD (11. Issey NAKAJIMA-FARRAN 64-)

Substitutes not used: 4. Matthew JURMAN, 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk)

Yellow cards: James MEYER 72-

Red cards: Nil

Melbourne Heart: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Michael MARRONE, 4. Simon COLOSIMO, 5. FRED (c) (7. Rutger WORM 61-), 6. Matthew THOMPSON, 10. Wayne SRHOJ, 13. Jonatan GERMANO, 16. Aziz BEHICH, 18. Curtis GOOD, 19. Eli BABALJ, 23. Mate DUGANDZIC (11. Alex TERRA 85-)

Substitutes not used: 3. Brendan HAMILL, 30. Sebastian MATTEI (gk)

Yellow cards: Michael MARRONE 33-, Eli BABALJ 53-, Matthew THOMPSON 71-, Simon COLOSIMO 88-, Wayne SRHOJ 90+4-

Red cards: Nil