Gold Coast coach Miron Bleiberg was trying to be modest when he told club owner Clive Palmer his team would thrash North Queensland 4-0 in Saturday night’s A-League clash at Skilled Park.
Bleiberg would’ve been right if the match had stopped in the 63rd minute, by which time New Zealand international Shane Smeltz had bagged four goals.
But with Tahj Minniecon adding to the rout in the 79th minute, the high-flying Gold Coast triumphed 5-0 to post victory in their first home game and stay on top of the competition, while the listless Fury are yet to notch a win.
“I tried to be modest but I told Clive four (goals),” Bleiberg said after the match.
In a bizarre decision, it was Joel Porter who secured man-of-the-match honours, despite Smeltz cleaning up on the scoreboard.
While acknowledging the terrific effort of Smeltz, who grabbed three goals in a scorching nine-minute period in the second half in front of 7,526 vocal fans, Bleiberg was happier to talk about his side’s defence and cohesion.
Bleiberg made five changes to the starting side which defeated Brisbane Roar 3-1 last weekend and was missing star defender Adam Griffiths, who has been lost to Saudi champions Al Shabab.
“I’m proud more of the fact we kept a clean sheet,” said Bleiberg.
“I think that’s the strength of the team, we’re workman-like.
“We have 23 new players – no less and no more – and we gelled because we did the homework in the pre-season.”
Smeltz, the reigning Johnny Warren Medallist, has now scored five goals in just two matches this season.
“I haven’t scored a hat-trick in A-League so to score four is an amazing thing for me,” the 27-year-old said.
North Queensland, despite the recruitment of Socceroos defender Shane Stefanutto, were powerless to shut down a rampant United outfit.
“Gold Coast outplayed us in every department,” coach Ian Ferguson lamented.
“I think we actually contributed to three of their goals. I’m very, very disappointed.”
In the 29th minute Smeltz broke free of the defence and calmly slotted the ball past goal-keeper Paul Henderson after taking a long ball from Culina to start his golden run.
The former Wellington Phoenix star had a chance to extend Gold Coast’s 1-0 lead just before the break but his close range header from a pinpoint Michael Thwaite cross was well saved by Henderson.
But Smeltz would not be denied. He put his team ahead 2-0 with a 54th minute penalty goal after Beau Busch brought down Thwaite in the box.
In the 62nd minute Smeltz latched onto a neat Porter through-ball and fired at goal. The ball deflected off Busch and went past the despairing Henderson.
Just seconds later Smeltz had his quadruple. Steven Fitzsimmons sent the ball to Smeltz, who pivoted and fired low and hard into the right corner of the net.
To add salt into the Fury’s wounds, Jason Spagnuolo suffered a hamstring injury and will miss up to two weeks.