Own goal helps Gold Coast beat Melbourne Victory
A Rodrigo Vargas own goal delivered an injury-weakened Gold Coast a valuable away win over Melbourne Victory in Saturday night’s A-League clash at Etihad Stadium.
The experienced defender’s misdirected header in the 55th minute was the sole score, souring the mood of the Melbourne crowd, who had been in high spirits after star striker Archie Thompson made his comeback from a knee injury to start the second half.
Gold Coast’s win was reward for a disciplined defensive effort, stretching their unbeaten run to nine games.
The three points gave fourth-placed Gold Coast a four-point buffer over fifth-placed Melbourne.
Victory dominated the first 30 minutes, but could not penetrate the visitors’ solid defence.
Their best effort came in the 21st minute, Robbie Kruse, who had scored in Melbourne’s past four games, curling a strike which was going just inside the right post, before a fine diving save from Gold Coast’s ex-Melbourne keeper Glen Moss.
Gold Coast, missing attacking players Bruce Djite, James Brown and Tahj Minniecon through injury, were prepared to soak up the pressure and make occasional counter-attacks.
But they gave the Victory defence two big scares late in the half, captain Jason Culina shooting fractionally high after pouncing on a Grant Brebner defensive error, while a Ben Halloran shot was just wide.
Halloran had another good chance three minutes into the second half, taking too long to fire from close range and being dispossessed, after Adama Traore had wrong-footed Victory captain Kevin Muscat to set him up.
Traora was again the instigator for the score, sending in a cross from the left, with Vargas leading Gold Coast’s Joel Porter into the box and attempting to head the ball out of danger, but sending it the wrong side of the near post.
Thompson had minimal impact, in his first appearance since injuring his knee in last year’s grand final, as the Gold Coast defence held up well in the face of Victory’s desperate attempts to salvage a point.
Gold Coast coach Miron Bleiberg was unapologetic about his team’s defensive approach, particularly given the players they had missing, and proud of the way they executed it.
“You can’t expect us to come here and play good football, to make shots, whatever, you have to play a tactical game, play to your strengths, eliminate Melbourne’s strengths,” he said.
Victory coach Ernie Merrick was frustrated with his team’s inability to make their possession dominance count.
“We couldn’t get many strikes on target, I think Glen (Moss) only had to pull off a couple of good quality saves and once again it’s that frustration in the front third,” Merrick said.
Thompson was happy to have made it through his first half for the season.
But his return was offset by Kruse sustaining a thigh injury late in the match, which could sideline him.© AAP 2013