Jets back on track
The Newcastle Jets have got their Hyundai A-League season back on track with a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Central Coast Mariners in a tense derby encounter at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Friday night.
The Newcastle Jets have got their A-League season back on track with a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Central Coast Mariners in a tense derby encounter at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Friday night.
Newly signed import Micheal Bridges snared his first goal for the Jets with a well-taken strike in the eighth minute of play before Labinot Haliti made it 2-0 to the home team when he poked home from close range in the 14th minute.
Central Coast striker Adam Kwasnik made it 2-1 in the 19th minute with an impressive close-range volley and despite the Mariners having the better chances in the second half, the Newcastle defence held on for the Jets to claim their third win this year.
Newcastle coach Branko Culina spoke of his relief after his team's first victory since beating the Gold Coast almost two months ago.
"It was important that we won, especially at home and for our fans, who have been terrific throughout the year," he said.
"It was really a game of two halves … the first where we played some terrific football and set up the win, and the second half where the players challenged themselves and were absolutely brilliant."
The game started at breakneck pace on a rain-dampened pitch with the Jets controlling the tempo and they deservedly took the lead in just the eighth minute of the game.
Tarek Elrich produced an incisive run down the right flank before threading a ball through for Haliti on the edge of the penalty area. He produced a deft backheel for Bridges, who stepped around Nigel Boogaard and fired a left-footed shot past Danny Vukovic from 15 yards out.
Newcastle went two up just six minutes later.
Fabio Vignaroli's swinging free-kick from 25-yards out on the right wing found its way through a crowded penalty area to Haliti at the back post. He stabbed in Newcastle's second from close range despite the Mariners' calls for handball.
Typical of a derby encounter there was plenty of spirit. Mariner Dean Heffernan was shown a yellow card after a clash with Vignaroli developed into a multi-player scuffle, while Ben Kantarovski was later shown a card for a heavy tackle on Central Coast midfielder John Hutchinson.
The Mariners made it 2-1 before 20 minutes when Nicky Travis chipped a looping cross into the penalty area from wide on the right wing. Kwasnik was able to get his right foot in front of Elrich on the six-yard box to slam home a wonderful goal.
Hutchinson went close to grabbing an equaliser just after the half-hour mark with a 25-yard free kick that dipped wide, while down the other end Jets skipper Matt Thompson, who was playing in the midfield in a 3-5-2 formation, slide a shot off target from the edge of the box.
Vignaroli then sent his long-range effort just outside the far post to leave the home clutching a 2-1 lead at the break.
The Mariners took control of the second half almost from the whistle but for the most of it they were forced to shoot from outside the area.
Travis saw his 25-yard free-kick saved by Ben Kennedy while Michael McClinchey forced two good saves from the Jets custodian, the first a low skidding shot from outside the box and the second an audacious lob from 42-yards out that was eventually tipped over the crossbar.
Kwasnik spurned the best chance of the second half when he headed McClincheny's cross inches wide of the back post from inside the six-yard box.
Bradley Porter almost pinched a point for the visitors on the stroke of full-time when his chipped cross from wide on the right wing looked headed for the top corner before Kennedy tipped the ball over the bar to seal the Jets' first win since Round 4.
Central Coast coach Lawrie McKinna was disappointed with the result particularly as his side controlled most of the play.
"We dominated the second half and we had chances but it just wasn't enough," he said.
The win lifts Newcastle into eighth place while the Mariners remain fifth with the rest of Round 12 still to play.
Newcastle Jets 2 (Bridges 8, Haliti 14) Central Coast Mariners 1 (Kwasnik 19) Crowd: 6,198 at EnergyAustralia Stadium