Melbourne Victory records valuable win

A late penalty goal from Melbourne Victory captain Kevin Muscat has sealed a valuable 3-2 win over Hyundai A-League leaders Gold Coast United at Skilled Park, Gold Coast on Saturday night.

A late penalty goal from Melbourne Victory captain Kevin Muscat has sealed a valuable 3-2 win over Hyundai A-League leaders Gold Coast United at Skilled Park, Gold Coast on Saturday night.

In a highly entertaining game, Muscat was given two chances to convert the winning goal, after missing his first attempt. Encroachment by Gold Coast United's Bas Van den Brink, who gave away the initial penalty, allowed Muscat the second chance and he didn't make the same mistake, sending Jess Vanstrattan the wrong way.

There were many talking points from this game, not least Carlos Hernandez wonder strike from all of 30 metres that will surely be a contender for the goal of the season, while Gold Coast played an hour with just 10 men after midfielder Steve Fitzsimmons was sent off.

The first half in particular was a classic contest, with Gold Coast going ahead in the 16th minute through a Jason Culina penalty, only to see Hernandez level it six minutes later with his stunning goal.

The final five minutes of the half produced two goals, Archie Thompson giving Victory the lead, only for Joel Porter to level it up for the home side minutes later.

The Victory went into the match without the services of midfielders Tom Pondeljak and Nick Ward, both forced to miss the trip through injury, with Grant Brebner and Fabiano coming into the starting line-up.

It was Gold Coast though who dominated the opening 10 minutes, with Victory keeper Glen Moss holding a fierce shot by Brazilian Anderson in just the 3rd minute.

Thompson should have given Victory the lead with its first meaningful attack in the 11th minute, the Qantas Socceroos striker putting his shot over the bar from 6 metres, following good work by Hernandez and Matthew Kemp.

He was rue that miss five minutes later, when Gold Coast went ahead from Culina's penalty. Culina gave Moss no chance, after Muscat had clipped Joel Porter on the edge of the box.

With Melbourne starting to get its foot on the ball, Hernandez then unleashed his thunderbolt in the 22nd minute; his strike giving Gold Coast keeper Jess Vanstrattan absolutely no chance as it rocketed into the top corner.

Play was then going from end to end, but the match turned in Victory's favour when Gold Coast's Steve Fitzsimmons was sent off following a two-footed tackle on Leigh Broxham.

Almost immediately, Victory coach Ernie Merrick changed his tactics, replacing Broxham with the more attacking Robbie Kruse, who parked himself on the left wing for the rest of the night.

Victory were now enjoying good possession and at every opportunity trying to get in behind the United defence with some degree of success, with Kemp denied by Vanstrattan and Kruse stopped on the edge of the box by a desperate tackle from Van den Brink.

Thompson was looking increasingly dangerous and after putting one volley over the bar, he showed his class with a superb finish that curled inside the far post in the 43rd minute.

A lapse by Muscat a minute later however, allowed Culina a chance on goal and while Moss put it out for a corner, the Australian midfielder's superb cross from the corner found Porter on the edge of the 6-yard box and he headed home to level it up at the break.

As the recent dust storm swept over the Gold Coast, the second half was always going to be a tamer affair in the trying conditions and the chances were kept to a minimum.

Moss did brilliantly well to block a fierce Kristian Rees shot from close range to keep Victory level, while Van den Brink denied Fabiano with yet another great cover tackle.

But the telling moment of the match came with just six minutes remaining, Thompson's speed doing enough to get the better of the big Dutchmen, whose desperate lunge clipped Thompson.

To add insult to injury, it was Van den Brink's encroachment that allowed Muscat a second penalty attempt after he struck the initial effort over the bar.

Thompson was inches away from adding a fourth goal deep into injury time, but it mattered little as Melbourne secured a second win on the trot and puts them just a point behind United on the table.

Gold Coast United 2 (Jason Culina 18', Joel Porter 45') Melbourne Victory 3 (Carlos Hernandez 22', Archie Thompson 43', Kevin Muscat 86') Saturday, September 26, 2009 Skilled Stadium, Gold Coast Referee: Peter Green