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Victory recover to grab a point in Newcastle

NEWvMELA late penalty to the Victory sealed the Melbourne side’s place in the A-League finals, with the Jets languishing after a disappointing 2-2 draw at Hunter Stadium.

The Jets came into the game off the back of a disappointing loss in Perth, where they surrendered a 1-0 lead in the final 10 minutes of the match. Clayton Zane, however, made just the one forced change this week, with Ben Kantarovski starting for the injured Zenon Caravella.

Muscat, meanwhile, made seven changes to the side that lost their midweek Asian Champions League match against Yokohama. Nathan Coe replaced the maligned Lawrence Thomas, with Galloway, Traore, Finkler, Milligan, Rogic and Barbarouses joining Coe in a revamped Victory starting XI.

If Kevin Muscat was looking for a quality first half from his well-refreshed side, though, he would’ve walked off at the break bitterly disappointed.

The Jets were on top almost from the kick-off, with the Victory seemingly disinterested and unable to maintain any kind of possession on the bumpy Hunter Stadium surface.

Taggart fired the first warning shot in the 4th minute, but his effort from an acute angle was tipped wide of the far post by Coe. Zadkovich was next to test the Victory stopper in the 9th minute, with his swerving shot headed for the top corner, if not for the intervention of the ‘keeper.

Newcastle would register their dominance on the scoreboard shortly after. The Victory defence were all at sea as Emile Heskey, with a clever combination of strength and guile, controlled the ball well before putting it on a plate for Adam Taggart. The Golden Boot leader made no mistake, curling his effort around Coe, and extending his Golden Boot lead to three clear goals.

Just two minutes later, though, and the Victory were back on level terms against the run of play, with almost their first opportunity of game. An in-swinging corner from Gui Finkler found Adrian Leijer at the back post, whose headed effort across goal was finished off by Mark Milligan.

To cap off a manic five minute period, however, the Jets would re-take the lead less than a minute later. After pinballing around Victory’s penalty area, the ball fell to Josh Brillante who fired a shot towards the far post. With the aid of a deflection of both the post and Leijer, Brillante’s shot nestled into the back of the net, for what was an unfortunate own-goal.

The Jets continued to push hard and pressure the Victory defence, with David Carney, in particular, running riot down the left wing against an overwhelmed Scott Galloway.

Joel Griffiths came close twice before half time, with a fizzing free kick narrowly clearing the crossbar, before the fiery forward shot well across his body in the 38th minute. On both occasions, Nathan Coe was to the rescue for the Victory, who were fortunate to be behind by only a solitary goal at the break.

The game settled down after the break, with the majority of the play occurring in the middle third of the pitch, and turnovers abundant from both teams.

Archie Thompson had probably the best chance of the half, after he was able to round the ‘keeper in the 58th minute. Some clever lead-up work by Finkler and Barbarouses ended with Thompson, courtesy of a handy dummy by substitute James Troisi, but the Victory striker made a mess of the effort with an empty net at his mercy.

But as they did last week, the Jets surrendered their lead in the dying stages. A raking ball across the field from Finkler found Barbarouses, who cut it across the face of goal for Thompson. Josh Mitchell’s poor challenge on the Victory talisman gave referee Delovski no choice but to award the spot-kick, which Mark Milligan duly converted to complete his brace.

Substitutes Nick Ward and Mitchell Oxborrow both had late half-chances for the home side, but neither were able to find the target – meaning the Jets are relying on other results to go their way, to keep their slim finals chances alive.

About the author

avatarJustin is a passionate football fan, and the Editor-in-chief of Ultimate A-League.

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