Gold Coast v Phoenix

A-League report by Jeremy Ruane
Gold Coast United v Wellington Phoenix

Gold Coast United scored a solid 3-1 victory over Wellington Phoenix at Skilled Park on 1 October to climb to an overnight second placing in the Hyundai A-League, much to the delight of the bulk of the 2,943 fans in attendance.

Unlike many A-League encounters, the opening fifteen minutes of the match were fair bristling with action. United cranked things up with a fifth minute goal which was simply stunning in its execution.

Tahj Minniecon picked up the ball just inside the Wellington half and roamed down the left before picking out Bruce Djite on the edge of the penalty area. The striker spun off Jade North, gave himself a yard of space and thrashed a fifteen yard missile into the far corner for which Danny Vukovic was still diving when the ball was rebounding off the net!

Wellington's response was virtually instant - and caught out the referee's assistant, who wrongly adjudged Chris Greenacre to be offside as he deftly flicked home a clever cross from Paul Ifill in the seventh minute.

Kristian Rees was the player who kept the striker onside, but the former Wellington defender clearly felt pity for his old club, for within sixty seconds he had handled the ball in the penalty area, under pressure from Leo Bertos.

Referee Matthew Gillett didn't hesitate in pointing to the penalty spot, from where Ifill sent Glen Moss the wrong way - 1-1, with just nine minutes on the clock, and prospects of a goal-fest to rival their 3-3 thriller in New Zealand’s capital looking highly promising.

The visitors threatened again on the quarter-hour, Ben Sigmund picking out Greenacre's run in between defenders through the inside right channel with a raking pass which saw the striker shrug off the challenges and unleash a volley on target from an ever-decreasing angle. Unfortunately for Greenacre, Moss was perfectly placed to deny him this time.

After that bright opening stanza, the game soon turned into yet another mind-numbing A-League clash in which creativity is largely stifled and teams generally cancel each other out.

There were just two other incidents of note in the first half worthy of mentioning, one at each end of the park in the final ten minutes of the spell. The first, ten minutes from time, saw Rees thread a ball through the inside right channel for Jason Culina, who steered his cross into the stride of Djite.

The goalscorer sent his volleyed effort blazing over the crossbar from fifteen yards on this occasion, while from just outside the Gold Coast penalty area two minutes before half-time, Nick Ward sent a volley sizzling narrowly past the far post after Ifill's free-kick had been headed partially clear by Dino Djulbic.

The second half continued in much the same manner as the majority of the first. Chances were at a premium, and quality play wasn't overly abundant either. But Wellington's away day woes - they've seemingly more chance of winning the meat raffle in the post-match function than they have of returning home with a three-point haul from their frequent trips to West Island - were set to continue, as United finally got the upper hand.

Twenty minutes from time, the deadlock was broken by a superb goal, which came out of nothing. Substitute James Brown somehow managed to squeeze the ball in behind two Wellington defenders, despite his proximity to the corner flag, and onto it raced Steve Pantelidis.

The fullback, with nobody in a white shirt within touching distance, steered a low cross towards the near post where Djite was lurking. He adjusted his stance to enable himself to execute a purely instinctive back-heeled flick which beat Vukovic all ends up at his near post from the edge of the goal area.

2-1 to United then, and there was no way back for Wellington nine minutes from time, as Brown made it three. Manny Muscat clattered into Culina, leaving the midfielder checking his teeth in the immediate aftermath.

The visitors had bitten off more than they could chew, however, for Culina's response to this was to deliver a free-kick onto the head of Djite. He rose above all-comers to guide the ball into the path of the unmarked Brown, who guided his header across Vukovic and in by the far post to wrap up the scoring and confirm a first-ever Gold Coast win over a decidedly disappointing Wellington combination.