Gold Coast’s Grand Final dream gets closer

GOLD Coast United’s Grand Final dream is very much alive after a dramatic 3-2 win over Adelaide United in the Elimination Final at Hindmarsh Stadium.

Hyundai A-League Finals Series - Week 2, Elimination Final At Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide

ADELAIDE UNITED 2 (van Dijk 56-[pen], Leckie 70-) GOLD COAST UNITED 3 (Smeltz 38- / 79- [pen], Djite 71-) HT: 0-1 Referee: Chris Beath Crowd: 15,028

GOLD Coast United-s Grand Final dream is very much alive after a dramatic 3-2 win over Adelaide United in the Elimination Final at Hindmarsh Stadium.

After producing a team performance full of grit, determination and guile, Miron Bleiberg-s men advanced to a Preliminary Final date with Central Coast Mariners next Saturday and are now just one win away from meeting local rivals Brisbane Roar in an all Queensland finale to the 2010/11 season.

It was a pulsating game that had everything; spectacular goals, controversial decisions, a twice taken penalty and two teams who both came back from a losing position to gain the upper hand as the match swung one way then the next.

But it was Gold Coast-s fight back from 2-1 down that crucially turned the game in their favour, further evidence of the determination rippling through this United squad.

Striker Shane Smeltz will once again grab the headlines after giving Gold Coast the lead with a contender for goal of the season, then keeping his nerve late in the game to slot home the match winner from the penalty spot.

In between, Adelaide fought back admirably to gain the upper hand after levelling thanks to a Sergio van Dijk penalty and taking the lead courtesy of a Mathew Leckie strike in the 70th minute.

Smeltz had earlier tested Eugene Galekovic in the home goal before opening the scoring with a strike of true quality that the Adelaide custodian had little chance of saving.

From a seemingly harmless position all of 30 metres from goal, Smeltz turned his man before crashing a simply unstoppable strike past the helpless ‘keeper. It was a stunning goal, the ball tearing into the top corner of the net leaving the home crowd stunned and giving Gold Coast a precious lead to protect.

Last weekend-s hero, Dino Djulbic, almost doubled Gold Coast-s lead in the opening minutes of the second half when he connected strongly with a Peter Perchtold free-kick, only to watch in frustration as his header came back off the post before being cleared to safety.

Adelaide were given a lifeline back into the match when referee Chris Beath awarded a 55th minute penalty to the home side for a foul in the box by Bas van den Brink. Sergio van Dijk stepped up and drilled the ball home, leaving the game finely balanced for a rousing finish.

Their tails up, Adelaide were shooting on sight with Van Dijk and Boogaard both trying their luck from long range as Gold Coast dug in to weather the storm.

The pulsating match hit boiling point midway through the half with two goals in two mad minutes. First, the home side took the lead when Moss could only parry Cassio-s shot into the path of Leckie, who hooked the ball past the Gold Coast custodian off the inside of the post.

But Miron Bleiberg-s crucially hit back inside 60 seconds. Tahj Minniecon was the architect, his cross finding Smeltz who headed towards goal. Galekovic did well the block his effort but Djite was lurking with intent and nodded home from close range to square the scores once again.

The goal put wind back in Gold Coast-s sails and with 11 minutes to go they struck the vital blow. Joel Porter hurtled towards goal only to be felled by Nigel Boogaard and referee Beath again pointed to the spot.

Smeltz thumped the ball past Galekovic only to have his celebration cut short as he was ordered to retake his spot-kick after the referee spotted some encroachment into the box from Cassio and Djite.

But Smeltz showed nerves of steel to once again find the net and set up a mouth-watering clash against Central Coast Mariners next Saturday in Gosford.

Gold Coast United: 1.Glen MOSS [gk], 2.Steve PANTELIDIS, 3.Michael THWAITE (c), 6.Dino DJULBIC, 7.Zenon CARAVELLA, 8.ANDERSON, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 11.Bruce DJITE (19.Andrew BARISIC 88-), 13.Bas VAN DEN BRINK (14.Joel PORTER 70-), 15.Tahj MINNIECON (24.John CURTIS 81-), 33.Peter PERCHTOLD. Unused subs: 20.Scott HIGGINS [gk], 16.Kristian REES. Yellow cards: Smeltz 38-, Djite 47-, van den Brink 54-, Pantelidis 82-. Red cards: None.

Adelaide United: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC [gk], 3.Nigel BOOGAARD (2.Robert CORNTHWAITE 90-), 6.CASSIO, 8.Adam HUGHES, 9.Sergio VAN DIJK, 10.Marcos FLORES, 11.Andy SLORY (19.Mathew LECKIE 40-), 12.Paul REID, 13.Travis DODD (c), 14.Cameron WATSON (17.Iain RAMSAY 84-), 16.Dario BODRUSIC, Unused subs: 20.Mark BIRIGHITTI [gk], 21.Francisco USUCAR. Yellow cards: Boogaard 78-. Red cards: None.