Ryan Griffiths' late penalty has helped Newcastle come from two goals down to secure a dramatic 3-3 draw with Melbourne Heart on Saturday
|By DAMIEN SOUNESS
Melbourne Heart were left to rue a second-half fade-out as Ryan Griffiths' 86th-minute penalty handed the Newcastle Jets a 3-3 draw at AAMI Park on Saturday.
Jets substitute James Virgili was brought down by Simon Colosimo in the dying stages, giving Griffiths the chance to level proceedings from the spot.
Griffiths made no mistake with his attempt, sealing an unlikely result after Newcastle had trailed by two goals five minutes in.
Heart went ahead after 33 seconds through Richard Garcia, before Josip Tadic doubled the advantage with a penalty four minutes later.
Newcastle pulled one back through substitute Craig Goodwin in the 56th minute, and Ruben Zadkovich levelled the contest seven minutes later.
Garcia restored Heart's lead in the 71st minute, but the hosts were unable to hold on as Newcastle fought back gallantly to salvage a point.
Heart coach John Aloisi made two changes to the side that was beaten by Adelaide United last week, with Nick Kalmar and the injured Mate Dugandzic (foot) making way for David Williams and captain Fred, who spent four weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.
Jets coach Gary van Egmond wielded the axe following last week's loss to Wellington Phoenix, with Brazilian Tiago Calvano, fellow defender Joshua Brillante and young forward James Virgili dropped from the starting team.
Teenage defender Connor Chapman and Brazilian midfielder Bernardo Ribeiro were handed their starting debuts, while Dominik Ritter made his return from injury in defence and third-choice goalkeeper Matthew Nash replaced the injured Mark Birighitti.
Heart made an ideal start to the contest when Garcia found the net with the seventh-fastest goal in Hyundai A-League history.
Patrick Gerhardt played a long ball in the direction of Williams, which was stopped in its tracks by Jets defender Scott Neville.
Neville's attempted clearance fell into the path of Garcia, who struck truly with plenty of space in the box and only Nash to beat.
Garcia was amongst the action soon after as Chapman made a clumsy challenge that saw referee Jarred Gillet point to the spot.
Tadic beat Nash with a powerful shot, putting the Jets under pressure to create chances at the other end.
Newcastle midfielder Jobe Wheelhouse pounced on Clint Bolton's wayward throw, but his hopeful strike was safely caught by the Heart custodian.
Heart were relentless throughout the opening half, with the likes of Tadic, Gerhardt, Fred and Aziz Behich constantly looking to breach the Jets defence.
Newcastle marquee forward Emile Heskey had his first and only genuine attempt on goal in the 27th minute with a header that sailed high and wide of the target.
Heart, on the other hand, continued to create chances and almost tripled the margin through Colosimo, whose glancing header was brilliantly saved by Nash in the 38th minute.
Goodwin, making his first appearance against his former side, came off the bench after the interval and had an immediate impact on the match.
The young forward worked his way into the box, where he connected with Zadkovich's cross for the Jets' first goal.
The momentum swung Newcastle's way in the second half as Heart struggled to maintain control of the tempo.
Zadkovich levelled the contest in the 63rd minute with a cracking shot from outside the box that flew past Bolton.
But Garcia put Heart back in front when he combined with Tadic and Matt Thompson to beat Nash with a brilliant piece of play.
But Heart were unable to return to winning ways as Griffiths silenced the home crowd from the penalty spot following Colosimo's foul on Virgili.
Heart travel to face bottom-placed Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium next week, while Newcastle take on Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium.
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