Melbourne Heart FC's Foxtel National Youth League side settled for a 1-1 draw with the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra on Saturday.
Marc Marino struck with virtually the last kick of the match for the AIS, after Benjamin Garuccio looked to have given Melbourne Heart victory with his 68th-minute solo effort.
The AIS started brightly as befitted a side that had won both of its home matches played to date.
A flicked header from Darcy Madden flashed just wide before Liam Rose crashed a first-time half volley inches past the post with Heart stopper Marko Stevanja flat-footed - both efforts coming in the opening 10 minutes.
Melbourne was struggling to get a foothold in the contest at this stage and the AIS exploited their extra pace out wide with Anthony Gersbach skinning his marker and sending over a deep cross to the back post where Todd Norris climbed highest to direct a header at goal that Stevanja was able to collect.
Heart eventually found an attacking gear and the lively Garuccio was unlucky with a curling left-footed shot that cannoned back off the crossbar in the 27th minute, but it was a rare moment of positivity from the visitors with the AIS enjoying the weight of possession and looking the more likely of the two teams in the first half.
A thumping strike from Marcus Schroen that flashed just wide of goal set the tempo for a better showing from the Heart in the second stanza with the Melbourne side getting into their stride within minutes of the re-start. With skipper Philip Petreski becoming a more influential figure in midfield, Heart found themselves with more ball and subsequently some better opportunities.
But still the elusive goal would not come. Garuccio fired over on the turn when finding room in front of goal eight yards out before AIS substitute Marino swept an effort into the hands of Stevanja from the edge of the area after slick approach work from Madden and Marc Ochieng.
When the breakthrough did come it was former AIS man Garuccio who provided the moment of inspiration for Heart in the 68th minute. Breaking down the right flank, Garuccio cut infield and, after his initial effort had been blocked, recovered quickest to lash a low drive beyond Jordan Thurtell and into the bottom corner of the net.
Ben Warland almost drew the AIS level 10 minutes later when he met a corner at the near post with a glancing header that drifted past the far post as the hosts upped the ante in an attempt to find the equaliser. Dylan Smith was next to try his luck, his volley lacking the requisite power to trouble replacement Heart goalkeeper Philip Petrovski before Dylan Smith hit the inside of the post and Marino blazed the rebound over the open goal.
That chance, in the 89th minute, looked to have been the final opportunity for the home team but, in the last seconds of stoppage time the AIS levelled. Ochieng, who had been a thorn in the side of the Heart for the whole match, swung over a delicious cross into the centre of the penalty area where Marino made amends for his miss, ghosting in to prod the equaliser past Petrovski from close range and secure a precious point.
STATISTICSFoxtel National Youth LeagueRound 4
AIS 1 (Marc Marino 90+3’)Melbourne Heart 1 (Benjamin Garuccio 68’)AIS: 1. Jordan THURTELL, 2. Darcy MADDEN, 3. Brendan GONANO, 4. Ben WARLAND, 5. Matthew SCHMIDT (19. Bright APPIAH 58’), 6. Matthew NTOUMENOPOULOS (10. Dylan SMITH 58’), 9. Todd NORRIS (11. Marc MARINO 54’), 12. Marc OCHIENG, 17. Anthony KALIK, 18. Alexander GERSBACH, 22. Liam ROSE
Melbourne Heart: 1. Marko STEVANJA (16. Philip PETROVSKI 71’), 3. Philip PETRESKI, 4. Andrew MULLETT, 5. Ross ARCHIBALD, 6. Alexander DAO, 7. Hernan ESPINDOLA (2. Andrew CARTANOS 60’), 8. Sam MITCHINSON, 9. Benjamin GARUCCIO, 10. Marcus SCHROEN, 11. Jonathan BOUNAS (12. Matthew MILLAR 60’), 14. Ersin KAYA (13. Tyler JAMES 60’)
YELLOW CARDS: 4. Ben WARLAND, 11. Marc MARINO, 18. Alexander GERSBACH (AIS), 2. Andrew CARTANOS, 8. Sam MITCHINSON, 9. Benjamin GARUCCIO, 10. Marcus SCHROEN, 12. Matthew MILLAR (Melbourne Heart)