Gold Coast outdoes Victory
Gold Coast has come up trumps in a spiteful encounter with Melbourne at Skilled Park on Friday night courtesy of a 20-yard screamer from Zenon Caravella late in the second half which was ultimately the only goal that separated the two sides.
Gold Coast United has come up trumps in a spiteful encounter with Melbourne Victory at Skilled Park on Friday night courtesy of a 20-yard screamer from Zenon Caravella late in the second half which was ultimately the only goal that separated the two sides.
After a fiery match that saw seven bookings, Gold Coast has now gone seven matches unbeaten at home and moved onto equal points with Melbourne which sits first on the ladder with 44 points.
After an incident-packed goalless first-half, Gold Coast dominated second-half possession and the well-earned breakthrough came on 77 minutes when Caravella rifled his curling effort into the back of the net, sending the home crowd wild.
The Victory suffered a major setback before kick-off with striker Archie Thompson failing to recover from an ankle knock he picked up in Tuesday night's 4-0 win over Wellington.
Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick drafted right-back Mathew Kemp into the starting 11 along with midfielder Nick Ward but without Thompson the Victory were unable to find any real menace up front.
Gold Coast's midweek worries over the fitness of Shane Smeltz and Charlie Miller were dismissed as the pair took their place in the starting line-up, fully recovered from their respective viruses.
With just a minute on the clock Gold Coast stated its intentions when Smeltz did well to hold off Adrian Leijer and play the ball across to Caravella who wrong-footed Kevin Muscat and pulled the trigger forcing Victory keeper Mitchell Langerak to tip over the bar.
Carlos Hernandez went just wide 10 minutes later but his right-foot effort had warning signs all over it as it curled past Jess Van Strattan's upright.
With so much on the line for both sides, tensions flared when United hard man Steve Pantelidis tangled with Robbie Kruse in an off-the-ball incident just inside the Gold Coast half.
Kruse was then forced to the have his right shoulder strapped with the incident sure to come under scrutiny from the FFA match review panel.
Joel Porter tested Langerak in the 27th minute after Caravella's good work to dispossess Muscat at the top of the box caught the Victory defence napping.
And Michael Thwaite followed shortly after with a powerful left-foot drive from outside the area forcing Langerak to parry the ball out of play for a corner.
Just on the half-hour mark Kruse's knock picked up in the earlier tussle with Pantelidis proved too painful for the young striker and he had to be replaced by Grant Brebner.
Reports from the Victory bench diagnosed Kruse's injury as a strain to his AC joint.
Pantelidis then found his way into referee Chris Beath's book after his momentum took him right through Melbourne's Marvin Angulo.
Hernandez then sent Gold Coast another warning sign when the Victory were granted a free kick within range on 38 minutes.
The Costa Rican stepped up curling a venomous shot over the wall but to the relief of a stranded Van Starattan, the ball dipped just over the crossbar and onto the roof of the net.
The fiery encounter continued when Muscat elbowed Gold Coast captain Jason Culina on the edge of the area as he attempted to chase down a loose ball.
As with the Pantelidis-Kruse incident no card was issued from the referee and the match continued on simmering.
Angulo had the last effort of the half when he did well to turn Caravella in the Victory's final third but the Melbourne new boy's well-struck effort flashed wide.
As the teams stepped back onto the park Miller's fancy footwork earned Gold Coast a free kick in a threatening position just outside the box.
With three players hovering over the ball Smeltz wound up hitting a curling right-foot rocket that shaved the wrong side of Langerak's upright.
Action continued in the 56th minute when Miller threaded the needle to Culina who raced into the box, taking a touch and hammering towards goal, but Melbourne's custodian Langerak was equal to the effort producing a fantastic save to deny the Gold Coast captain.
Muscat found his way into the book when he fouled Porter close to the right of the Victory's penalty area on 65 minutes.
The tense Skilled Park atmosphere was then sent into rapture when Caravella broke the stalemate for Gold Coast in the 77th minute.
After some nice work down the right flank Dino Djlubic cut the ball low across the Victory penalty area.
Smeltz was on hand but couldn't control, however the ball fell perfectly for Caravella 20 yards out and the little No.7 unleashed a screamer from his right boot which curled past the outstretched keeper and slammed into the back of the net.
Caravella couldn't contain his jubilation and tore off his shirt in celebration but in the process became the fifth player of the night to have his number taken by Beath.
Gold Coast United 1 (Caravella 77) Melbourne Victory 0 Crowd: 7,249 @ Skilled Park