Struggling Melbourne Heart have hung on for a 1-1 A-League draw with the second-placed Western Sydney Wanderers at Parramatta Stadium.
Melbourne Heart and their embattled coach John Aloisi defied the A-League form book to earn a 1-1 draw against second-placed Western Sydney on Saturday at Parramatta Stadium.
Without a win outside Melbourne since October last year, the bottom-placed Heart went ahead through David Williams, with the Wanderers’ Aaron Mooy equalising just before halftime to ensure the spoils were shared.
Although the Wanderers finished strongly, they created only a handful of clear-cut chances, slipping five points behind leaders Brisbane Roar.
“The chances were there and we controlled the game,” said Wanderers coach Tony Popovic.
“They had a game plan to slow the game down from the outset and it just wasn’t to be.
“We have only lost one of nine games this season and playing some good football so we are pleased with the first third of the season.”
The draw was a major positive for Aloisi with the Heart also buoyed by the long-awaited return of Harry Kewell who made a 20-minute second-half appearance following an eight-week absence.
Aloisi says Kewell’s entrance in the second half boosted the spirits of his struggling side.
“We knew we were up for a major fight today but we showed good spirit,” he said.
“Harry lifts everyone around him, just by him walking onto the pitch lifts everyone. All the other players around him grew with confidence on the ball and we started to play some good combination football and Harry brings that to a team.”
There was controversy in the first half with a shot cleared off the line by Wanderers fullback Aziz Behich with the ball at least partly over the chalk.
But it was the Heart who took a shock lead as Williams’ cross from the right flank eluded defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley and goalkeeper Ante Covic to nestle inside the far post.
The Wanderers drew level a minute before halftime when Mooy was, not for the first time, allowed too much latitude on the edge of the penalty area and the midfielder duly rifled home a low shot.
Shinji Ono enjoyed a raucous welcome from the 14,549 fans when he entered after the interval but the Japanese forward was unable to inspire the home side despite dominating lengthy periods of the second half.
A sweet injury-time shot by Mooy was tipped centimetres wide of the post, while Spiranovic hit the post from the ensuing corner but there was to be no winner for the fast-finishing Wanderers.