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, and they are now five points behind leaders Brisbane Roar.
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.
There was controversy in the first half with a shot cleared off the line by Heart 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 Matthew Spiranovic hit the post from the ensuing corner, but there was to be no winner for the fast-finishing Wanderers.
Meanwhile, Central Coast Mariners ended Sydney FC‘s recent run of winning form with a 1-0 win in Gosford.
The Mariners scored the decisive goal in the 26th minute, with Daniel McBreen scoring with a clever close-range backheel from a Josh Rose cross.
It was the first goal of the season for the 36-year-old forward – who was the league’s leading scorer last season – since he returned from a loan spell with Shanghai SIPG.
While Sydney had a lot of early second-half possession, they were unable to make a dent on the Mariners defence.
Central Coast withstood the pressure and turned the game in their favour, creating a number of strong chances in the closing stages.
The defeat brought Sydney FC’s run of four straight wins to a halt.