Take two: David Williams celebrates his second goal for Heart.

Take two: David Williams celebrates his second goal for Heart. Photo: Mal Fairclough

Heart coach John Aloisi has kept the faith with Golgol Mebrahtu, hoping that the big Eritrean youngster will develop into a handful as he gains experience in leading the line. On Saturday afternoon Aloisi's patience and support was rewarded as the 23-year-old played with power and purpose, energy and enthusiasm and created a physical threat whenever he came near the ball.

It was almost, but not quite, enough to inspire Heart to a morale-boosting win over Central Coast Mariners, the defending e champions.

After a first half that was cagey and competitive, Mebrahtu stamped his authority on proceedings within 15 minutes, setting up the two goals for David Williams that looked to have kick-started Heart's season.

Time
90.00
Team
HRT
Score
2
Team
CCM
Score
2
Melbourne Heart FC versus Central Coast Mariners FC
View Match Statistics
Players Williams (53min, 60min) Goals Flores (70min, 77min)

That they weren't enough owed everything to the decision of referee Ben Williams to award the Mariners two penalties, both converted by ex-Melbourne Victory marquee man Marcos Flores, which were enough to give the Mariners a 2-2 draw.

The first, when Patrick Kisnorbo was judged to have put an arm on the shoulder of Matt Simon, looked soft. The second came when substitute Patrick Gerhardt was penalised when the ball struck his hand from a cross in the penalty area.

While it was a disappointing end, Heart, which was without the injured Harry Kewell, will at least be able to take plenty of joy from the performance of Mebrahtu.

The big striker, playing with a confidence that he hadn't shown in the past, fired in a long-range shot that should have been a routine take for Mariners goalkeeper Justin Pasfield. But he fumbled and Williams reacted quicker than anyone, pouncing on the rebound and then rounding Pasfield to shoot into an empty net.

The opening goal was in the 53rd minute, the second Mebrahtu was to the fore. He slid a through ball to Iain Ramsay, whose cross found Williams in space.

Mebrahtu almost got on the scoresheet himself in the 67th minute when his pace and strength proved too much for fringe Socceroo defender Trent Sainsbury, whom he outsprinted and held off to bear down on goal.

However finishing has been the weak point in his game to date, and that was the case again as he tried to steer the ball past Pasfield only for the keeper to push it to safety.

The Mariners might have been on the ropes, but champion teams are usually nothing if not resilient. While Flores showed he could not be ignored with a snap shot that drew a fine save from Andrew Redmayne as his team tried to claw its way back into the game.

Moments later it had, with the two penalties, awarded in the 69th and 75th minutes, which Flores coolly despatched past Redmayne.

Williams had a golden opportunity to notch his hat-trick in a tense final 10 minutes when Ramsay's cross eluded everyone and came to the Heart forward.

But his shot was directly at Pasfield, who scrambled a save.

Things could all have been rather different had Ramsay, brought in as part of the reshuffle occasioned by Kewell's withdrawal because of a whiplash injury, had taken the chances that came his way in the first half.

The former Adelaide man, employed in a wide left attacking role (with Williams shifted central to occupy Kewell's spot) should certainly have done better with a chance midway through the opening period when Mebrahtu's persistence won the ball, which he fed to Williams.

The latter's pass found Ramsay in space inside the area on his favoured left foot but his shot, disappointingly for the Heart faithful gathered in numbers behind the Yarraside goal, only found the side netting.

The same player then had a chance to atone, this time with his head, after a delightful cross from Williams found him unmarked in a similar position.

But once again he could not hit the target, Pasfield happy to see the ball loop over the bar.

The visitors were not without chances of their own to break the deadlock in the opening period, Socceroo striker Mitchell Duke's shot bringing a fumbled save from Redmayne.

From the resultant corner Sainsbury's header struck the bar.

Its early in the season, but Aloisi will feel this was two points that got away. For Graham Arnold, the potential Socceroo coach, this was a point on the road that he will be grateful to take - irrespective of the way it was secured.