GCU confirms class
Gold Coast United has regained their mantle as Hyundai A-League ladder leaders by disposing of Sydney FC 2-1 in the top-of-the-table clash at Skilled Park on Saturday evening.
Gold Coast United has regained its mantle as Hyundai A-League ladder leader by disposing of Sydney FC 2-1 in the top of the table clash at Skilled Park on Saturday evening.
Shane Smeltz took his season tally to eight goals with a pair of goals, his first opened up the match in the shadows of half time, and his second - a brilliant solo effort - iced the game in the 56th minute.
Sydney hit back with a late goal to Steve Corica and the home fans were given a scare when Bas Van Den Brink gave away a free kick in the dying moments, but John Aloisi's strike wasn't good enough to get around the gold wall of defenders.
Much of the pre-match build-up centred around who would assume Jason Culina's role in the mid-field, but instead of a direct swap Gold Coast coach Miron Bleiberg employed Robson, Zenon Caravella and Tahj Minniecon in a rotating three-pronged attack.
Bleiberg was suitably impressed by the performance but maintained that it came as no surprise.
"Luckily we had a blank sheet to build a team here on the Gold Coast, and we built it knowing that we could cover for the loss of any player," he said.
"The boys put in the extra effort while Jason was away and it certainly showed tonight."
Sydney was in the match early but failed to grab a goal on some good chances and was almost left idle as United ran riot with its plethora of attacking options.
Caravella and Minniecon were elusive on the flanks, while Robson kept plugging away through the middle as the home side grabbed the ascendency.
The only negatives to come from the match for United were injuries to Joel Porter (calf) and Matt Osman (hip) who had to be replaced and are in doubt for their round six date with Perth.
The opening goal for Smeltz came on the end of a brilliant curling ball from Osman who found his striker in perfect position to bury the ball into the net with a clean header.
The kiwi international got his second after some untidy work from Karol Kisel handed him the ball in good position, Smeltz rounded Shannon Cole and fired past Clint Bolton who had little chance.
In the early minutes Sydney looked sharp and had the first real scoring chance when Cole was awarded an early free kick at the top of the box, but he drove his shot straight into a wall of United defenders.
After defending stoutly, United's first chance came when Minniecon showed sharp skills to put himself into space, a pin-point cross found a streaking Caravella but his shot sailed just wide.
Minutes later Osman crossed form the corner for his skipper, Michael Thwaite, who got a clean header on the ball but Bolton was in position to clean up.
Caravella had his second near miss when his 30-metre left-footer beat Bolton but struck the left upright to give Sydney a reprieve.
Gold Coast dominated possession and position in the opening term but Sydney were unlucky not to capitalise on their minimal chances.
Sung-Hwan Byun drove a shot just wide of the post from a tough position, but Sydney should have been first to score after some neat work from Alex Brosque.
Brosque chipped for Aloisi, ran into space and then received a nice ball back from his skipper to be one on one with Coast 'keeper Scott Higgins.
Higgins was caught in no mans land but Brosque made his job easy by kicking straight to him.
Sydney skipper John Aloisi rued the missed opportunities which could have changed the course of the match.
"If we got on the board through one of those early chances then we could have forced them to chase us but it wasn't to be," Aloisi said.
Amazingly, Smeltz's run of eight goals in five matches is more than any other team has netted as a whole in the opening rounds of the competition.
Gold Coast United 2 (Smeltz 45' 56')
Sydney FC 1 (Corica 75')
@ Skilled Park, Robina. Crowd: 6406