Hoffman grabs a double

The Newcastle Jets have kicked off the 2009/10 Hyundai A-League season with an entertaining 3-2 win over the Wellington Phoenix at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Newcastle Jets have kicked off the 2009/10 Hyundai A-League season with a gutsy 3-2 win over the Wellington Phoenix at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Newcastle looked the goods early with Jason Hoffman picking up a double to help the Jets to a 2-0 lead after just 22 minutes. But the Phoenix muscled their way back into the match with defender Ben Sigmund and striker Chris Greenache scoring goals to make it 2-2 at half-time.

Newcastle substitutes Sean Rooney and Jason Naidovski combined to grab the winner six minutes from time to hand last year's wooden spooners an encouraging start to their new campaign and their first opening-round win in their brief history.

"It is terrific," Jets coach Branko Culina said of Newcastle's first-up victory. "Credit must go to the players. To play the type of football they played today is very good for a side that is a few weeks underdone."

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert was disappointed with the loss and could only take a handful of encouraging signs out of the match.

"You can look at a few things but at the end of the day the score line says 3-2 and that is what we need to address," he said.

Newcastle's marquee player Fabio Vignaroli had the first chance of the match in just the fifth minute of play after Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante fouled Hoffman just outside the penalty area. Vignaroli managed to curl his shot around the wall but the ball flew just outside the right post.

It was the Italian who sparked the first goal seven minutes later when he slipped a deft through ball for defender Tarek Elrich. He sprinted into a gap over the halfway line before chipping a pass to Hoffman, who managed to get a toe to the ball and lob a shot over Phoenix goalkeeper Mark Paston and into the net for his first A-League goal in 20 appearances for the club.

The visitors looked to hit straight back but Newcastle goalkeeper Ben Kennedy was up to the task marking a Durante header before producing a good diving save to keep out a low shot from Leo Bertos at the near post.

The home side doubled its lead in the 22nd minute when Elrich again found space down the right wing. He slide a ball into the area for Jin-Hyung Song, who steadied before drilling a left-foot shot which was parried away by Paston but only into the path of Hoffman who poked in his second goal from six yards out.

Wellington managed to pull one back just four minutes later when Bertos sent a dangerous free-kick into the area from 30-yards out on the right flank. Poor marking from the Jets allowed Wellington defender Ben Signmund a free header inside the box and he made no mistake from close range to make it 2-1.

The Jets went close to scoring when Sasho Petrvoski sprung the off-side trap only to see his lobbed shot headed clear by Phoenix defender Tony Lochhead. Jets skipper Matt Thompson then scooped an Adam D-Apuzzo cross narrowly over the bar from close range.

Wellington made it 2-2 just minutes before half-time when Bertos again made his presence felt with a strong run through the centre of the Jets defence. He attracted two defenders before sliding a handy ball to English import Chris Greenache, who managed to squeeze a shot under a diving Kennedy to make it all square at the break.

Both sides come out full of running in the second half but it was the home side which looked more likely to break the deadlock.

Elrich steamed onto a lay-off from Song only to see his viscous shot bunted away in a reflex stop from Paston while Hoffman should have had his hat-trick when he headed wide with the goal at his mercy after clever lead-up work from Ljubo Milicevic.

The Jets introduced strikers Jason Naidovski and Sean Rooney for Petrovski and Vignaroli mid-way through the second half and the youngsters combined to steal the winner for the home side just when it looked the match might finish in a draw.

Thompson lofted a long through ball for Rooney, who did well to get outside his defender and chip in a left-footed cross for Naidovski who looped his header just wide of Paston into the net for the winner.

Newcastle Jets 3 (Hoffman 12, 22, Naidovski 84)

Wellington Phoenix 2 (Sigmund 26, Greenache 43)

Crowd 6,654 at EnergyAustralia Stadium