Newcastle Jets made it two wins from two games on their pre-season tour of China on Wednesday after goals to Kristian Brymora and Andrew Nabbout helped Scott Miller’s side see off the challenge of the reigning Hong Kong Premier League Champions Eastern SC 2-1.
With new club owner Martin Lee watching from the stands the Jets largely dominated the first 45 at the Bao’an Stadium in downtown Shenzhen.
In an entertaining first half in China the Jets almost went ahead on four occasions before Brymora eventually broke the deadlock.
Andrew Hoole - who scored twice against Liaoning Whowin FC on Saturday night - whizzed a free kick from 25 yards out just over the bar in the 13th minute, before Brymora just missed getting a touch on Nabbout’s centre from the right seven minutes later.
In the 22nd minute Eastern SC produced their best moments of the first half when a rocket of a shot struck the crossbar, before Ben Kennedy was forced into a fine save from a corner in the same minute.
Influential Jets midfielder Wayne Brown struck the side netting following a Devante Clut pass just after the half hour mark, before Steven Ugarkovic sent a free kick from the edge of the crashing into the woodwork in the 34th minute of play.
Finally the Jets got a reward for their first half toil in the 40th minute when St. Paul’s Booragul High School student Brymora stormed into the box and calmly slotted the ball beyond Eastern SC custodian Liang Yuhao.
The Hong Kong Champions didn’t take long to level the match after the interval. In the 48th minute Croatian midfielder Miroslav Saric slid a tidy finish into Kennedy’s net.
From there the Jets were made to work desperately hard to regain the lead. And the hot and humid conditions certainly played their part in slowing the tempo of the match.
Nevertheless, Jets coach Miller has challenged his players during this trip to find a way to win games, and find a way to win the game his players did.
Nabbout was denied by a great save from Liang in the 80th minute, but he wouldn’t be thwarted again six minutes later when he was given the chance to put Newcastle ahead from 12 yards after an Eastern SC defender was ruled to have handled Nick Cowburn’s ball into the box. Nabbout sent a thunderous effort from the spot into the goal, which turned out to be the winner.
“I think the performance was very challenging but ultimately any challenge we undertake now we want to overcome it,” Miller said post-match. “We have recorded two wins in very difficult conditions against very good opposition [and] it’s vital now that we build that momentum.”
In a welcome boost for the squad Jets skipper Nigel Boogaard made his first appearance of the pre-season after working diligently to return from off-season surgery.
Miller was happy to have his captain back on the park, and also praised Nabbout for taking his chance from the penalty spot late in the game.
“It’s always nice to have a player of his [Boogaard’s] quality back in the squad, and furthermore a guy who speaks and communicates to the team like he does. He leads from the back and the organisation he provides the squad is very evident.”
“It’s nice to see the confidence in a player [Nabbout] stepping forward and actually taking his chance,” Miller added.
Newcastle Jets will wrap up its 2016 tour of China with another friendly against one of Hong Kong’s top clubs, Kitchee SC, at the Bao’an Stadium on Friday 2 September 2016. Kick-off is at 4:30pm local time (6:30pm AEST).
Newcastle Jets 2 (Brymora 40’, Nabbout 86’ (pen))
Eastern SC 1 (Saric 48’)
Venue: Bao’an Stadium, Shenzhen
Referee: Liang Cai Wei (China)
Substitutes not used: 20. Jack Duncan (Gk)