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Feb 21, 2011   |  12:50AM AET

Finals heartbreak for Victory

Finals heartbreak for Victory

Melbourne Victory’s Hyundai A-League campaign has ended in heartbreak with Gold Coast United’s Dino Djulbic scoring a stoppage-time winner in their elimination semi-final at Skilled Park.

Melbourne Victory’s Hyundai A-League campaign has ended in heartbreak with Gold Coast United’s Dino Djulbic scoring a stoppage-time winner in their elimination semi-final at Skilled Park.

Victory had several great chances to win the match, while goalkeeper Michael Petkovic pulled off a string of remarkable saves to keep them in the match.

But in the end, Melbourne were undone from a set piece in the 91st minute, with Peter Perchtold picking out Djulbic from the corner and the big defender heading home powerfully.

Marvin Angulo had a chance to push the match into extra time with a shot in the final seconds, but his effort went well over the bar and Victory crashed to their first finals defeat in their history.

It is a tough manner for Victory to end a season which had shown plenty of promise, but lacked consistency overall. In the end, the effort of having to come from fifth on the table proved beyond them.

The club’s focus now turns to the Asian Champions League which begins in Japan against Gamba Osaka on March 1.

Melbourne took up the attacking initiative early in the game and Danny Allsopp and Robbie Kruse both forced parries from Glen Moss inside the first five minutes.

Gold Coast’s first chance fell to Tahj Minniecon but his timid connection barely stretched Petkovic. Kruse was getting plenty of space early and on 13 minutes had another sight on goal but put the ball well over.

Gold Coast tightened up midway through the half as the tempo of the match slowed. Up the other end, Minniecon was afforded another chance on the half hour, shooting over the bar when through on the Melbourne keeper.

Melbourne were then forced to reshuffle when Surat Sukha picked up a knock, with Billy Celeski coming on and Tom Pondeljak filling Sukha’s shoes out on the left. Gold Coast’s left back Adam Traoare, a thorn in Melbourne’s side in the first half, also picked up an injury and would be replaced by Joel Porter early in the second half.

Even before Porter’s arrival, the home side looked to press forward and Shane Smeltz had two chances saved by a suddenly busy Petkovic.

Victory looked to have snatched a goal on the counter-attack seven minutes into the half, but Kruse was pinged for offside in the lead up before Archie Thompson then arrived for Mate Dugandzic in a bid to turn the game Melbourne’s way.

Instead it was Gold Coast who almost scored with Porter crashing a long shot against the bar, while Petkovic desperately punched away the follow up cross. Then on the hour, Zenon Caravella then forced a fumble from the Melbourne stopper, which fortunately went over the bar.

Carlos Hernandez arrived on the scene as Melbourne looked to win the match with firepower, but Petkovic continued to be the busier keeper, defying a close range effort from Smeltz, saving a cracking shot from Minniecon, and watching nervously as Adrian Leijer back-heeled a clearance off the line.

Up the other end, Thompson failed to beat Moss with a shot, as did Allsopp before Hernandez hit the bar with a 40m free kick. The decisive miss for Melbourne came on 85 minutes when Hernandez’s pass put Allsopp through on goal, but the striker was unable to get his shot on target.

Tired legs meant an open game of football and the ball was constantly sweeping from end to end. Entering stoppage time, Gold Coast won a corner. Perchtold’s delivery was superb and Djulbic rose higher than Allsopp to head home to most important goal of his career.

Gold Coast United 1 (Djulbic 90+)
Melbourne Victory 0
3,281 At Skilled Park