Preview: Gold Coast United v Melbourne Victory
Skilled Park Sunday Showdown! It's do-or-die time as United go all out for Victory
Gold Coast United v Melbourne Victory Sunday 20th February 4:30pm Skilled Park Sunday Showdown! It's do-or-die time as United go all out for Victory, so get to The Beach and prepare for non-stop excitement.
After a disappointing but ultimately fairly meaningless first ever derby defeat to Brisbane Roar last weekend, it's time for United to get back to winning ways as they embark on their second finals series, and they want you to help them do it. So secure a ticket today for the Skilled Park showdown and get ready to create the kind of atmosphere that will inspire the players to make it to the next stage.
While losing to Brisbane on the Champions' big day was hardly the end of the world, the Gold Coast need to dust themselves down and regroup straight away, as they look to banish the disappointment of their only previous match in the finals this time last year. Their loss on penalties at home to Newcastle really summed up an inaugural Hyundai A-League season that fell flat after a bells and whistles start. Having ended disappointingly outside of the top two, in their Elimination Final they came up short again, failing to find a way past Jets over 120 minutes and then dramatically losing 6-5 in an unbearably tense shoot-out that went to sudden death.
This season though, United have taken a different approach. No fanfare, no bold claims, just a lot of hard work and some quality football. Once again, they didn-t quite have enough about them to make the top two, but there is quality in abundance in Miron Bleiberg-s side. Last weekend's thrashing aside, they have a solid defence, while, at the other end, offer a massive threat in the form of Bruce Djite and yo-yoing talisman Shane Smeltz.
Twist the two, things are held together nicely by Captain Fantastic, Jason Culina. The combination of those three strengths is certainly reason for The Beach to be confident of a fine run in the series. Can they go all the way? If everything comes together, then they most certainly can.
Just like Gold Coast United, Melbourne Victory will see the Hyundai A-League 2011 finals series as an opportunity to lay to rest those painful memories of last year. The end of last season was a rollercoaster ride that ended in double heartbreak for Ernie Merrick and his players. Having had one hand on the Premier-s Plate, they were overtaken by Sydney FC on the last weekend of the season but seemed to have got their own back when Archie Thompson-s goal deep into extra-time at Sydney Football Stadium propelled them straight into the Grand Final.
However, after making it there the hard way, Sydney then dealt the death blow to Victory-s season with a 4-2 penalty shoot-out win. The North and South Terrace Boys will be dreaming that this finals series will end on a happier note.
Victory definitely have the quality to walk away with silverware at the end of all this. The one thing that they have been lacking is consistency but, on their day, Ernie Merrick-s men can beat anyone. While their defence has leaked goals at times, they have so many players that can change games with a moment of magic. Carlos Hernandez is always capable of all sorts of brilliance and in Robbie Kruse Victory boast a player that has had a fantastic season. While Kevin Muscat hardly ended his campaign shrouded in glory, there are certainly individuals capable of being the star of the finals. Who will step up to the plate and go down in Melbourne sporting folklore?
Sunday's Elimination Final is massively tough to call and could indeed go all the way to extra-time and perhaps even end with the rollercoaster of emotions that is the dreaded penalty shoot-out. Of the three meetings between the rivals in the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 season, both sides have beaten the other, with Melbourne Victory winning two of the three battles, including a 1-0 triumph at Skilled Park. However, The Beach can take heart from United's fantastic display at Etihad Stadium, which resulted in a single-goal win.
It's set to be another really close match between these two fine sides on Sunday, and the tension and excitement is set to reach fever pitch, so why would you be anywhere else when the drama gets going at Skilled Park? It's up to United to make home advantage count this year as Miron Bleiberg's men look to leap a tough opening hurdle. Victory - as always - are sure to be well represented in the stands, both in terms of numbers and noise, so United fans need to turn up in droves and really get behind the boys in yellow. It's been a great season so far, but this is where it really counts, so make a difference from the stands. Sing to win!