Depleted Jets and Victory can’t be split
Melbourne Victory bounced back from their 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Brisbane last week, with a gritty 1-1 draw on the road against Newcastle Jets. 12,270 fans were at Hunter Stadium for the toughly contested stalemate.
Both teams had to make numerous changes due to international duty, injuries, and suspensions. Big man Emile Heskey was back in the Jets starting lineup to spearhead the attack, while Craig Goodwin had been given a rare opportunity to impress from kick-off as Andrew Hoole, Connor Chapman, Josh Brillante, and Adam Taggart were all in Oman for the under-22 Asian Championships.
Also in Oman, for the Victory, were defenders Jason Geria, Scott Galloway, and Nick Ansell, leaving a bare-bones back four with youth team skipper Dylan Murnane being promoted to the senior squad, while Pablo Contreras returned from injury. Leigh Broxham took the captain’s armband after Mark Milligan injured his knee during training earlier in the week. Archie Thompson returned from injury and replaced Connor Pain on the bench, who was also on international duty in Oman.
Murnane had a nervous start at left back, as a few mistakes in the opening minutes put his teammates under pressure. As a result, the game was played in Newcastle’s attacking half for the first ten minutes.
As the game went on, Victory were happy to soak up the Jets’ pressure and hit on the counter-attack, but chances were few and far between.
Kosta Barbarouses was released on a successful counter-attack in the 26th minute but Mark Birighitti was able to parry the chipped shot for a corner.
Contreras showed why he was signed as a marquee defender, conceding a foul in clever fashion as Heskey was in on certain goal, taking the ball with his trailing arm. Goodwin struck the resulting free-kick under the wall and Contreras once again saved a goal, clearing Nathan Coe’s parried save on the line.
He could have recieved a second yellow a few minutes after, however, as he clipped the back of Heskey’s leg, just outside the box. Strebre Delovski, who was officiating his 100th A-League game, waved play on.
In the 42nd minute, Mitch Nichols found himself on the wrong end of Goodwin’s free-kick from the right side, although it was the right end for Newcastle, as the ball inadvertently bounced off his head into the back of Coe’s net.
Kevin Muscat’s counter-attacking tactics paid off just three minutes into the second half as Andrew Nabbout slotted an equalizer from Barbarouses’ low cross. The play was started from Coe’s short goal-kick just a minute before.
Nichols finished what could potentially be his last game for Melbourne early, as an injury forced his substitution in the 55th minute. Jimmy Jeggo replaced him.
The game was end-to-end as the midfield became obsolete in the 2nd half, with both teams looking for the all important second goal.
Unlike the first twenty minutes, the chances came thick and fast for both teams in the last twenty minutes as the pressure mounted. Neither team could find the breakthrough, however, and were forced to share the points.