Roar, Mariners share the spoils
The Brisbane Roar and Central Coast Mariners played out a thrilling 2-2 draw at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
In a match where momentum swung back and forth several times over the 90 minutes, the Mariners went ahead early through Michael McGlinchey and hung on to their lead comfortably in the opening stanza.
Brisbane came out firing in the second half, however, and went ahead courtesy of a Besart Berisha brace.
Central Coast showed why they sit atop the A-League table, though, drawing level with a Daniel McBreen goal.
Roar coach Mike Mulvey made four changes after last week's win against Perth, with Jade North and Steven Lustica earning their first starts while Berisha and Shane Stefanutto returned after serving one-match suspensions.
His plans were soon unsettled, however, as midfield dynamo Massimo Murdocca failed to recover from a clattering Trent Sainsbury tackle, and hobbled off after five minutes to be replaced by Ben Halloran.
McGlinchey capitalised on a fatal Matthew Jurman error in the eighth minute to put the Mariners 1-0 up.
Jurman stuck his foot out at a Mile Sterjovski cross from the left, but only managed to divert the ball into the path of McGlinchey, who easily guided the ball past Michael Theo in the Brisbane goal.
The closest Brisbane came in the first half was via a Luke Brattan free kick, which was probably intended as a cross.
Mariners goalkeeper Matthew Ryan was forced to tip the ball over as it threatened to dip under the crossbar.
Bernie Ibini offered a constant danger down the right for Central Coast, frequently troubling Stefanutto and Jurman.
The Mariners pressed forward late in the first half and came close through Patrick Zwaanswijk and McBreen.
The Dutchman leapt high to get on the end of an Oliver Bozanic free kick, but his header flew just over the target.
Just before the half-time whistle, McBreen had his shot from point-blank range saved well by Theo before Stefanutto cleared the danger to keep his side within striking distance.
A minute after play resumed, the Roar were level.
A Luke Brattan corner from the right drifted over a crowded penalty area to find Thomas Broich.
Nifty footwork from the German won him enough time and space to send a cross back into the danger area, and Berisha turned the ball into the net with a glancing header.
Brattan's dead-ball delivery continued to trouble the Mariners.
After Broich had been fouled on the left, Brattan's free kick found Ivan Franjic at the back post, but the defender could not hit the target with his header from close range.
Brisbane's latest signing, Dutchman Stef Nijland, almost made the best possible start to his A-League career, but his shot from a tight angle soon after coming on was comfortably saved by Ryan.
A predatory Berisha gave the Roar the lead after 68 minutes, ghosting in at the near post to turn in a low Stefanutto cross, after the left back had been released down the left by Nijland.
Central Coast showed character, however, to level the scores with 10 minutes of regular time left.
Substitute Mitchell Duke's ball across goal was flicked on by Zachary Anderson to McBreen, who struck a powerful shot past Theo to notch his 14th goal of the campaign.
The Mariners finished the stronger of the two sides, with Theo forced to make several athletic saves to keep the scores level.