Culina fires for United

Qantas Socceroos midfielder Jason Culina has made a memorable homecoming to Australia, scoring in his Hyundai A-League debut to see Gold Coast United open their account with a 3-1 win over Brisbane Roar in an eventful inaugural South-East Queensland derby at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

Qantas Socceroos midfielder Jason Culina has made a memorable homecoming to Australia, scoring in his Hyundai A-League debut to see Gold Coast United open their account with a 3-1 win over Brisbane Roar in an eventful inaugural South-East Queensland derby at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

Culina, who became the highest profile Hyundai A-League signing earlier this year when he transferred to United from Dutch powerhouse PSV Eindhoven, found space in the box in the 59th minute and sent the ball whistling into the back of the net with apparent ease.

The Roar actually dominated possession and created a host of opportunities throughout the match, but in the end it was the clinical finishing of Culina and New Zealand international Shane Smeltz that proved to be the difference.

Sergio van Dijk gave the home crowd hope of a miraculous turnaround when he slotted a penalty in the 89th minute, making the score 2-1, but it was quickly snuffed out by Robson.

The Brazilian made the most of some lackadaisical defending, cantering into the box to put the icing on the cake for Gold Coast.

Earlier a stumble from Brisbane skipper Craig Moore on the cusp of the box gave Joel Porter enough space to find Smeltz, who snuck in front of Bob Malcolm and fired truly in the 17th minute.

Amazingly it would be the only time United entered the box in the first half, while the second stanza proved just as fruitless - with an error from Liam Reddy the only other genuine chance the visitors had apart from Robson's major and Culina's slick strike.

The match started to bubble late in the piece and a scuffle on the ground between Smeltz and Malcolm preceded the converted penalty that was awarded after United defender Matt Osman felled Michael Zullo.

19, 902 fans witnessed the spirited encounter that saw ten yellow cards handed out in total by referee Peter Green.

The buildup for the game, which dated back over a year ago to United's entry into the competition, was expectedly animated - and all eyes were soon turned to Suncorp Stadium in expectation of just how heated the rivalry would be on the park.

Roar playmaker Mitch Nichols took under four minutes to earn the first caution from Green for an off-the-ball incident, and he was followed by teammates Robbie Kruse, Danny Tiatto, Moore and substitute Charlie Miller.

Steve Pantelidis, Culina, Robson, Smeltz and keeper Scott Higgins all saw yellow for the visitors, but by far the most remarkable event was Smeltz and Malcolm's tussle - which saw players from both sides run in to breakup the action.

Roar coach Frank Farina put on a brave face after the loss.

"I thought we played quite well to be honest, the score-line doesn-t indicate that, but for the moment the Gold Coast have the bragging rights," Farina said.

"Sometimes in football you've got to take your medicine and this is one of those times."

United counterpart Miron Bleiberg was largely disappointed with the performance from his charges.

"We were too excited, the first half was close to a shocker and the second half was only slightly better …we played quite bad," Bleiberg said.

"I know how much better our team can play, but at the end of the day we got three points and I got the monkey off my back. We can finish with this obsession."

The hosts looked lively but ultimately were far too wasteful.

Danny Tiatto was creative in the middle for the Roar, while van Dijk had ample opportunity to get the better of Higgins but lacked the deft touch he showed in the 2008/09 season when he netted 12 goals.

Blunders from Daniel Piorkowski and Higgins in the first half left the Dutch striker with only the keeper to beat, but he was not up to the task.

The loss was further soured by a possible abductor injury to defender Andrew Packer who was forced from the field in the eighth minute after landing awkwardly in a challenge.

Farina was unsure the extent of Packer's woes, but feared he could be set for an extended stint on the sidelines.

Brisbane Roar 1 (van Dijk 89) Gold Coast United 3 (Smeltz 17, Culina 59, Robson 90+3) Crowd: 19, 902 at Suncorp Stadium