Cole sparks Sydney comeback
A second-half brace from Shannon Cole helped Sydney FC storm back from a 2-0 halftime deficit to clinch a draw with Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park.
The result means the Heart qualify for their first Hyundai A-League finals tilt while the Sky Blues have to win next week against Newcastle Jets to make the top six.
It was a gutsy fight back from Vitaslav Lavicka's men after Mate Dugandzic and Eli Babalj capped a dominant opening half for the home side by each finding the back of the net in hot six-minute period just before the break.
But momentum switched in the second half and substitute Cole made the Heart pay for defensive lapses with strikes on 66 and 77 minutes as Sydney once again rescued a result.
After a cautious first half hour the home side brought the game to life.
On 31 minutes captain Fred delivered deep into the attacking zone where Dugandzic did well left of the box to latch onto the high ball and volley a finish through the legs of Sky Blues gloveman Ivan Necevski.
Five minutes later Fred blasted in another long ball and Dugandzic was in the thick of it again.
He fired from a tight angle and the kick took a deflection before Babalj connected beautifully with a low header that speared past the right-hand post and into the back of the net.
The strike was Babalj's eighth of the season and equalled John Aloisi’s club record for most goals scored in one campaign.
The Sky Blues replaced Rhyan Grant with Shannon Cole at half time and they were the livelier team after the resumption.
The visitors were able to press further up the park and came very close to opening their account when Nick Carle hit the crossbar on 53 minutes. Bruno Cazarine was first to the rebound but his prod towards goal was saved by a diving Clint Bolton.
They made better use of their next chance. Cole came off the bench and dragged them back into the match with a 65th- minute goal following Brett Emerton's neat cross that had the Heart defence scrambling in the penalty box.
Cole then equalised from a free kick after advancing into the area unmarked.
Scott Jamieson swung it in on his left from the right flank and the opportunist Cole caught the defence off guard and headed past Bolton.
Heart immediately had a chance to counter attack but Alex Terra, fresh off the bench, had his shot inside the penalty area blocked.
Melbourne Heart 2 (Dugandzic, 31, Babalj, 36)
Sydney FC 2 (Cole, 66, 77)
Crowd: 7,498at AAMI Park, Melbourne
Hyundai Motor Company Australia and Melbourne Heart were delighted to lend a helping hand to Aspendale Soccer Club with a grant of $3000 as part of the Hyundai Goals for Grassroots program. For more information on the program, visit www.goalsforgrassroots.com.au