Tahj secures glory for Gold Coast

Tahj Minniecon has secured Gold Coast United the National Youth League Grand Final at Etihad Stadium on Saturday with a 90th-minute winner in a cracking finale to the season against Perth Glory.

Tahj Minniecon has secured Gold Coast United the National Youth League Grand Final at Etihad Stadium on Saturday with a 90th-minute winner in a cracking finale to the season against Perth Glory.

In a thoroughly entertaining match, Dean Evans’ wondrous 75th-minute strike from all of 30 yards for the Glory looked to have secured a memorable win for Perth.

But the Gold Coast had other ideas, man-of-the-match Chris Harold, who was a constant threat all game, headed home to level the scores on 82 minutes before Minniecon struck in the 90th minute to turn the game on its head and rip the Championship from Perth’s grasp.

That the game was an exceptional end-to-end affair proved to be merely a side note and meant little to the victorious Gold Coast players.

Indeed the game was full of drama from start to finish with the goal-less first half proving an injustice to both sides.

Right from Ludovic Boi’s first shot in anger for Perth within five minutes the game exploded into life. Both sides continued to create chance after chance from that point on.

Ludovic Boi found space down the left in behind the Gold Coast defence on more than one occasion early on with Perth using the width of the pitch well

Perth’s interplay between front man Mario Marcinko, the midfield and wide men Boi and Reece Vittiglia was sublime.

After 20 minutes there was more drama with claims for a penalty for a handball in Perth’s penalty box, but the claims were waived away by the referee.

It was at this point the Gold Coast began to mark its own impression on the match.

Benjamin Wearing had the side’s first real chance from their first corner, making good position to get a head on it only for it to be bundled wide from close range.

Moments later Minniecon cut in from the left and after a darting run teed up Ben Halloran clear through on goal. His driven shot took a deflection and looped over the keeper.

As good as Perth’s interplay was Harold’s pace on the break was just as breathtaking.

Perth’s continued to press but the Gold Coast’s threat on the counter became more and more evident after the Glory’s early purple patch.

Another glorious run from Minniecon saw the ball fall into the path of Halloran once again. His curling shot was palmed away by Perth keeper Alex Pearson off the post.

Boi’s sideways scissor kick from just outside the six-year box was saved by Gold Coast keeper Jerrad Tyson moments later, but after all that perhaps the best chance fell to Harold moments before the break.

The 17-year-old striker showed why he’s such a talent, weaseling his way in behind the defence to have his shot deflect off the keeper, back off his own chest and finally trickle just inches wide of the left post.

That marked the end of an exceptional first half where either side could’ve laid claim to a host of goals as the score surprisingly remained goalless.

After the break it was Harold again that posed the greatest threat for the Gold Coast.

On 49 minutes he held off the defender, turned from six yards and had his powerful shot blocked, he was good enough to follow up the rebound but Pearson completed a stunning double-save.

After all that huffing and puffing both sides seemed to have run out of answers as the game looked headed for extra time.

All that changed when Evans picked his spot in the top left corner from every bit of 30 yards, with a curling shot worthy of praise at any level of the game.

But Gold Coast didn’t boast the meanest attack in the league for nothing and Harold’s work was far from done.

After working the keeper with shot after shot and skipping defenders with ease the young star got his just reward in the 82nd minute, heading home from close range from Minniecon’s cross with his 16th goal in 24 games to tie things up.

To top that, after some nervy final minutes, Minniecon looked to have run himself into trouble on the left side of the box before cutting back inside to cushion a shot into the bottom right corner.

Extra time was not needed as the Gold Coast held on to celebrate a fantastic victory amidst the despairing Glory players.

Result aside, the final was a tremendous advert not only for the National Youth League but an indicator of the giant strides the game has taken in Australia.

Perth Glory 1
(Evans 75)
Gold Coast 2
(Harold 82, Minniecon 90)
@ Etihad Stadium