Victory held by Gold Coast
A second-half strike from Carlos Hernandez secured a point for Melbourne Victory as they were frustrated in a 1-1 draw with Gold Coast United at a sodden Skilled Park on Saturday.
The match posed the perfect opportunity for Victory to reinstate their finals credentials with a win, albeit in horrid conditions.
Maceo Rigters opened the scoring for Gold Coast six minutes after half-time, before Hernandez drew Victory level with a sublime strike.
The visitors continued to push for an elusive winner in the final half hour with Hernandez and Harry Kewell twice going close before a frustrated Archie Thompson was denied from close range by a superb save from Jerrad Tyson in the dying minutes.
With unrelenting rain on the Gold Coast in the 24 hours prior many were surprised the game went ahead and despite Victory dominating much of the early proceedings, it was the home side who took the lead soon after half-time.
Rigters found plenty of space in the Victory's defence after a flowing move to slot home in the 51st minute before Hernandez responded by picking his spot in the bottom right corner inside six minutes of the Dutchman's opener.
Earlier, a robust challenge from Mark Milligan on Ben Halloran inside the opening ten minutes further dampened prospects for the home side as he limped off in the 14th minute to be replace by Jake Barker-Daish.
The Victory looked very fluid early on with Hernandez, Thompson and Kewell typifying Victory's newfound confidence in the final third with some neat possession play.
And, although the visitors failed to create a clear cut chance their intent was ominous, even more so after the ever-dangerous Halloran departed.
United goalkeeper Tyson clattered into Thompson just outside the box, collecting him in the head with a leading hip but somehow avoided sanction for the challenge.
Thompson, who had failed to score in his last six matches, was played through in the heart of Gold Coast's defence again on 22 minutes, but despite some trickery was expertly marshalled wide by central defenders Zachary Anderson and Kristian Rees.
Hernandez soon followed with a low driven shot in the space created by Kewell's timely layoff across the box but the keeper was not tested.
But after the quarter-hour-mark the home side sprang to life just as the Victory ebbed away.
Rigters had United's first genuine chance with an audacious dinked finish over goalkeeper Ante Covic after he had latched onto a long ball.
Gol-Gol Mebrahtu stepped up in Halloran's absence and linked well with Adama Traore down the left to cause headaches for the Victory defence.
Anderson then fluffed a glorious chance to give the home side a half-time lead with a free header directly in front of goal.
Hernandez and Thompson fired warning shots soon after the break but it was the home side who dealt the first real blow.
With holes gaping all over the pitch a sleek counter-attack proved Melbourne's undoing.
Barker-Daish received the ball in the box and turned it on for Rigters who blasted the ball unopposed past Covic
But it was Melbourne's deadly trio that reinvigorated the Victory's hopes just moments after Isaka Cernak had replaced the ineffectual Marco Rojas.
Kewell laid the ball out for Thompson who found Hernandez with a pinpoint ball across the box from the right. He blasted a beautiful first-time strike past Tyson and within six minutes parity was restored.
The equaliser effectively stung the home side into inaction as they defended deep but often failed to clear their lines.
Hernandez continued to chance his arm while Kewell went looking for a fifth goal in five games with back-to-back chances.
The first, a left-foot effort from outside the box, the second, a blasted effort from inside after a turn oozing with class had bamboozled Daniel Bowles.
Thompson could not believe his luck as an expert save from Tyson, after he had rounded the last defender, denied him a drought-breaking goal.
Cernak created more moments of indecision for the hosts in the closing stages with searching balls into the box.
Thompson could have manned the back post for one of them but his lack of anticipation summed up what was yet another frustrating evening of a frustrating season for the Victory.
Gold Coast United: 1 (Rigters 51)
Melbourne Victory: 1 (Hernandez 57)