Smeltz sinks Sydney in top of the table tussle

A brave Sydney FC has suffered its first defeat of the 2009/10 season, going down 2-1 against Gold Coast United in tonight’s top-of-the-table contest at Skilled Park, Robina.

A brave Sydney FC has suffered its first defeat of the 2009/10 season, going down 2-1 against Gold Coast United in tonight-s top-of-the-table contest at Skilled Park, Robina.

In a high-quality match it was the brilliance of Shane Smeltz that sealed the points for the hosts – the Kiwi striker finding the net twice – either side of half time to help his team reclaim top spot on the Hyundai A-League ladder.

Sydney FC Coach, Vitezslav Lavicka congratulated the Gold Coast after the match, saying: “It was good game (but) they were probably better than us, especially in first half.”

It was widely billed as the first blockbuster of the new season and from the earliest exchanges it was clear the clash between the top two teams would live up to the hype.

After an energetic start the home side had the first chance to opening the scoring in the 11th minute when their skipper, Tahj Minniecon beat his man down the left and crossed cleverly for Zenon Caravella – but his outstretched boot could only poke the ball wide.

Caravella sent another scare through Sydney moments later but his run into the box was ended by an alert Simon Colosimo, and with United launching raid-after-raid Smeltz enjoyed a free header from close range, but it was calmly controlled by Clint Bolton.

Having absorbed all the pressure in the opening quarter-hour Sydney FC began to play its way into the game. In the 17th minute some crisp interplay on the edge of the Gold Coast area ended out on the left with Sung Hwan Byun – his low cross had danger written all over it but failed to find the finish it needed on the far post.

Thirty minutes in more promising play from the Sky Blues almost bore fruit. Alex Brosque carved up the middle, playing off John Aloisi, before taking an unbalanced shot that just drifted wide.

The hosts weren-t on the back foot for long though, and again it was Caravella causing all the problems. He came closest to starting the scoring when his deflected shot beat a diving Bolton before grazing Sydney-s goal.

Despite the end-to-end action the first period seemed destined to finish in a stalemate, but in the shadows of half time a free kick provided the opening for United. Matt Osman sent the ball curling in towards Smeltz , deep on the far post and he opened the scoring with a looping header that ballooned into the net, despite the desperate efforts of Sydney-s scrambling keeper.

Down 1-nil at the break, the Sky Blues looked to come out firing after the restart but it was Gold Coast that struck the next blow in the 56th minute of the match. A defensive error from Sydney FC saw the ball fall to the feet of Smeltz and the home side-s star striker made no mistake – unmarked inside eighteen.

Trailing 2-nil Sydney showed its steel. The Sky Blues began to dictate terms and it was clear they weren-t out of the contest. In the 67th minute Steve Corica joined the fray, subbing on for Karol Kisel, and Sydney-s skipper showed his intent immediately, firing wide from distance one minute after his entrance.

Eight minutes later the club captain clawed one back. Some smart interplay between Shannon Cole and substitute, Kofi Danning on the right sideline ended with a beautiful Cole cross. Corica was waiting on the far post and his diving header had the Sky Blues back in the game.

The Moore Park men continued to take the fight up to their hosts and defender, Sebastian Ryall came on late in the game to make his Sky Blue debut, allowing Coach Lavicka to throw Stephan Keller forward. Sydney controlled the closing stages but couldn-t crack the determined Gold Coast defence again and the game ended in a 2-1 win for United.

Despite falling to their first defeat of the season the Sky Blues will take plenty of confidence out of the high-quality contest, and they-ll be looking to bounce back when they return home in round-6 to host Robbie Fowler-s North Queensland Fury.

“Being down two goals we showed good character to get back in (the) game,” assessed Sydney-s Czech mentor. “(But) we have things to work on this week – we must play quicker and be more aggressive.”

The highly-anticipated clash with the Fury will be played in front of a big crowd at the Sydney Football Stadium at 7:30pm next Saturday night. Tickets are now on sale for the SFS blockbuster and can be purchased through all Ticketek outlets, including online.

Click here to pre-purchase your tickets for now!

Match Detail

Gold Coast United 2 (Smeltz 45-+1/56-)
Sydney FC 1 (Corica 75-)

Gold Coast: 20.Scott HIGGINS (gk), 3.Michael THWAITE (c), 5.ROBSON, 7.Zenon CARAVELLA, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 13.Bas VAN DEN BRINK, 14.Joel PORTER (11.MILSON 19-), 15.Tahj MINNIECON (24.ANDERSON 69-), 16.Kristian REES, 17.Matt OSMAN (2.Steve PANTELIDIS 55-), 22.Adama TRAORE.

Substitutes Not Used: 40.Robbie BAJIC (gk).

Yellow Cards: 5. ROBSON 7-.
Red Cards: nil.
Goals: Shane SMELTZ 45-+1/56-.

Sydney FC: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 3. Stephan KELLER, 4. Simon COLOSIMO, 6. Karol KISEL (10. Steve CORICIA 67-), 7. Brendan GAN, 9. John ALOISI (c), 12. Shannon COLE, 14. Alex BROSQUE (2. Sebastian RYALL 86-), 19. Mark BRIDGE (11. Kofi DANNING 55-), 22. Sung Hwan BYUN, 23. Rhyan GRANT.

Substitutes Not Used: 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (gk).

Yellow Cards: nil.
Red Cards: nil.
Goals: Steve CORICA 75-.

Referee: Strebre Delovski.
Crowd: 6,800 at Skilled Park, Robina.