High drama as Djulbic wins it for Gold Coast

DEFENDER Dino Djulbic was the hero for Gold Coast United after his injury time header knocked Melbourne Victory out of the Finals Series and kept United’s Grand Final dream alive.

Hyundai A-League Finals Series - Week 1 Knockout Semi-Final At Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

GOLD COAST UNITED 1 (Djulbic 90+1-) MELBOURNE VICTORY 0 HT: 0-0 Referee: Strebre Delovski Crowd: 3281

DEFENDER Dino Djulbic was the hero for Gold Coast United after his injury time header knocked Melbourne Victory out of the Finals Series and kept United-s Grand Final dream alive.

Rising like a salmon to reach Peter Perchtold-s 91st minute corner, Djulbic crashed the ball past Jason Petkovic to send United through to the next phase in the most dramatic fashion imaginable.

It was no more that Gold Coast deserved after outplaying their southern rivals in the second half of a pulsating match played in sweltering conditions at Skilled Park.

Both sides gave everything in the highly entertaining encounter, but it is Gold Coast who will face Adelaide United next Sunday (5.00pm local kick-off) at Hindmarsh Stadium in another do-or-die contest.

“It was a terrific performance and to win it so late made it very dramatic,” said Miron Bleiberg after the game.

“Both sets of players were brave in the way they went about their work in such hot conditions, but fortunately it was our day today.

“In the second half we made Melbourne look like a tired team and overall I felt we deserved our win,” he said.

The match began at a cracking pace despite the conditions and Melbourne-s Danny Allsopp fired the first shot in anger in the fourth minute, forcing Glen Moss into an early save. Moments later Robbie Kruse did likewise as the visitors enjoyed a bright start.

United-s first foray forward also came close to bearing fruit. Djite combined well with Smeltz and found Tahj Minniecon in the box, the youngster then showed some neat footwork before clipping his shot towards goal, but Petkovic was equal to it.

United midfielder Zenon Caravella, whose screamer against the Victory last season was his only Hyundai A-League goal to date, almost had a touch of déjà vu when his stinging left-foot drive in the 22nd minute fizzed just past the post.

Although Victory looked dangerous on the break, Gold Coast were growing into the match and Minniecon was only inches wide with a 20-metre effort just before the half hour.

United lost Adama Traore four minutes into the second period after the Ivorian succumbed to an injury he picked up late in the first half. Experienced striker Joel Porter was his replacement, slotting into a less familiar wide midfield role.

Porter was into the action immediately and almost gave Gold Coast the lead in the 55th minute. Taking a clever cross from Perchtold first time, Porter showed great technique to thunder a right-foot volley from the edge of the box that beat Petkovic but not the crossbar.

Their tails up, Gold Coast looked increasingly threatening and Caravella tested Petkovic again with another long-range effort that the Victory custodian could only tip over the bar. A powerful low cross from Pantelidis only eluded predator Shane Smeltz by inches as United continued to knock at the door.

The action was coming thick and fast in an end-to-end game as both sides went for broke. Petkovic-s reflexes saved Melbourne again when Smeltz took a Djite header on the volley, then Moss had to be alert as Archie Thompson sneaked free of the home defence.

With eight minutes left of normal time, Minniecon came as close as anyone to finding the net with a spectacular swerving drive that Petkovic saved brilliantly. Seconds later, Hernandez hit the bar with a cross from distance before Allsopp missed the chance of the match when he blazed over with the goal gaping.

But it was left to Djulbic to steal the headlines with his dramatic late winner, sending the crowd wild and keeping Gold Coast very much alive in the Finals Series.

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 (27.Chris HAROLD 81-), 15.Tahj MINNIECON (16.Kristian REES 90+4-), 22.Adama TRAORE (14.Joel PORTER 49-), 33.Peter PERCHTOLD. Unused subs: 20.Scott HIGGINS [gk], 23.Steve FITZSIMMONS. Yellow cards: Pantelidis 83- Red cards: None.

Melbourne Victory: 1.Michael PETKOVIC [gk], 3.Mate DUGANDZIC (10.Archie THOMPSON 53-), 4.Petar FRANJIC, 5.Surat SUKHA (14.Billy CELESKI 34-), 11.Marvin ANGULO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Diogo FERREIRA (16.Carlos HERNANDEZ 68-), 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 18.Danny ALLSOPP, 21.Robbie KRUSE, 23.Adrian LEIJER (c). Unused subs: .Sebastian MATTEI [gk], 17.Matthew FOSCHINI. Yellow cards: Angulo 86- Red cards: None.