Van Dijk hopes scores will sort critics
It was no surprise much maligned Queensland Roar striker Sergio van Dijk had to undergo recent scans for a suspected facial fracture - he had been copping criticism on the chin all season.
But after turning his battered cheek to more barbs than he can remember, van Dijk hopes to have finally silenced the doubters with a stunning hat-trick that kept the Roar's hopes of a top two A-League finish alive.
Barely 24 hours after scans cleared him of a broken cheekbone, van Dijk took his season goal tally to 10 by notching the first hat-trick by a Roar player and inspiring a 3-1 victory over Sydney FC at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
Not a bad effort from a player who looked in all sorts of trouble last Wednesday night when he lost consciousness briefly after a head clash with Adelaide's Robert Cornthwaite.
Sporting an impressive shiner on his right eye, van Dijk looked worse for wear when he emerged at the post-match press conference on Saturday night - but the Dutchman was feeling no pain after delivering a knockout blow to Sydney FC's finals hopes.
It may be full steam ahead for the van Dijk express but barely two months ago his A-League debut season appeared to have gone completely off the rails.
Incredibly the highly touted signing had only one goal - a penalty - to his name by late November.
Since then he has scored nine goals in as many games to help guarantee Queensland a top three spot with one regular season round left to play.
So what did van Dijk do to turn it around?
"That's the thing - I didn't do anything different. I tried to stay cool, keep my head, try to keep my confidence - I knew the goals would come," van Dijk said.
"That's a striker's thing. Sometimes when you score a goal the train starts running."
It seemed nothing was going to stop van Dijk from trying to continue his hot streak - not even a suspected fractured cheekbone.
"Before the game I knew it was important. Even if it (cheekbone) was broken I would have tried to play if it was possible," van Dijk said.
"But my cheek is okay, nothing is broken. I still have a little bit of pain, but it is nothing much."
While van Dijk once had his fair share of critics, Roar coach Frank Farina was hardly surprised by the reversal of fortune.
"I have been saying from day one that the goals will come," he said.
"There was a bit of negativity at some stages but people tend to forget that Serg has set up seven or eight goals, and now he has scored 10.
"Sometimes you lose confidence but you don't lose ability."
Van Dijk had a double by halftime after pouncing on a Mitch Nichols rebound to open the scoring in the 15th minute and capitalising on a wonderful long ball from Craig Moore in the 28th.
Fittingly van Dijk had the last word after Charlie Miller's pass set up a stoppage time goal.
It was the fourth home win in a row for the Roar whose Suncorp Stadium hoodoo now seems a distant memory.