Reds striker Sergio van Dijk’s winner against Melbourne reinforced his reputation as one of the most lethal strikers in the Hyundai A-League’s short existence.
From the time Sergio van Dijk entered the Hyundai A-League, he quickly gained a reputation as a prolific and clinical marksman, and his winner against Melbourne Victory last Friday night was another classic example of just why.
Going into his fourth Hyundai A-League season with an impressive record of 42 goals from 80 appearances, van Dijk is not showing any signs of slowing. Season seven may only be two weeks in, but last year-s Golden Boot winner sent an ominous sign to the rest of the competition that he is hungry for more when he swooped on a defensive mistake from the Victory to open his account for 2011/12.
Like any good striker, van Dijk did not need a second invitation as he latched onto an ill-directed square pass from Fabio and smashed a textbook left footed drive out of reach of Victory keeper Ante Covic. That small opening was all the Dutchman needed, and although it still needed the poise and ruthless, precise finish to end up in the back of the net, a modest van Dijk admits luck was on his side.
“It was an unexpected one but it was lucky I took a gamble and sometimes you need a little bit of help, even if it-s from your opponent,” van Dijk said.
“I don-t think the goalkeeper expected the ball because he probably thought one of his central defenders would take it, but as I said, sometimes you need the luck.”
The 52nd minute goal came at the southern end of Hindmarsh Stadium, coincidentally the same end of the field that the strong band of Melbourne supporters were congregated at. After watching his shot find the back of the net, van Dijk proceeded to run past the visiting supporters and point at his name on the back of his shirt. From first glance many may have wondered the decision and reason behind it, but the morning after at the Reds- recovery session, he was more than happy to shed some light on his chosen celebration.
“I was happy with that (the celebration) because I remember before the game we were in the warm up shooting at goal and every time we didn-t score they (the Victory supporters) said ‘who are you, who are you-, so I showed them who I was just to remind them,” van Dijk said.
He almost had another opportunity to make himself known later in the game when he sent a curling shot that hit the crossbar. Had the ball gone in it would have made it 2-nil and all but wrapped up the three points, however he and the Reds were made to sweat out the tense final minutes leading up to the final whistle to ensure the result.
Taking and making the most of his chances is something van Dijk believes is a work in progress, and he continues to strive for a greater conversion rate of turning chances into goals.
“That-s a thing we have to work on. We had a couple of chances to kill the game off, so to make it easier for ourselves and seal the deal earlier in the game we had to score again, but in the end I-m happy with the win,” van Dijk said.
While he may have taken the plaudits for scoring the winner, van Dijk is quick to deflect any attention that it is all about him, crediting the team-s defence which held up and contained one of the most potent attacking forces in the league, including Harry Kewell.
Next up for van Dijk and United is another massive home encounter, this time against Sydney FC in what has been dubbed the Hyundai A-League-s ‘Rivalry Round-.
Following the disappointing opening week loss to Perth, van Dijk believes last Friday-s win was just the tonic not only leading into Saturday-s clash, but also the following week when the Reds come up against reigning champions Brisbane Roar.
“This game (against Melbourne) brought us a lot of confidence as well and that is what we needed after last week-s game, and I-m feeling confident to take on Sydney and after that Brisbane,” van Dijk said.
“Most of it is in your head and with this good vibe going on I hope we can do better and take a step in the right direction.”
Tickets for Saturday-s match against Sydney FC are available through Ticketek. Kick-Off is at 5pm with gates open at 3.30pm.