Late penalty gives Jets a point

A last minute penalty to Joel Griffiths has seen the Newcastle Jets grab a share of the points with a 1-1 draw against the Central Coast Mariners in the opening round of the 2008/09 Hyundai A-League at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Friday night.

A last minute penalty to Joel Griffiths has seen the Newcastle Jets grab a share of the points with a 1-1 draw against the Central Coast Mariners in the opening round of the 2008/09 Hyundai A-League at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Friday night.

Both sides took sometime to find their rhythm with no side seriously threatening the goal in an uneventful first 45 minutes. But the match came alive in the second half with Newcastle dominating proceedings only to be denied by scrambling defence from the Mariners.

Just when the Jets looked certain to score it was the Mariners who took the lead against the run of play when substitute striker Matt Simon headed home in the 87th minute. But the visitors joy was short lived, with Newcastle awarded a penalty in the final minute of play. Griffiths stroked home from the spot to see the replay of last year's Grand Final finish even.

Jets' Korean import Jin Hyung Song, who was easily the sharpest player on the park, got the first full-blooded shot of the match from just outside the penalty area in the 18th minute but it was easily swallowed up by Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic.

Down the other end Mariners striker Sasho Petrovski was making his presence felt, monstering Newcastle's 16-year-old schoolboy defender Ben Kantarovski, but to the teenager's credit he managed to diffuse most of the Mariners' attacking plays.

Jets keeper Ante Covic did well to swat away a couple of dangerous in-swinging corners from John Hutchinson and he was well placed to scoop up a viscous low volley from Adrian Caceras just before half-time to keep the score 0-0 at the break.

The Jets came out with renewed vigor in the second half launching a raft of enterprising attacks on the Mariners goal, with Song more often then not orchestrating the play.

Joel Griffiths made a penetrating run through the Central Coast defence in the 47th minute only to see his cross evade everyone as it spun across the face of goal.

Just moments later Newcastle's marquee player Edmundo Zura brought the home side to its feet when he headed a pin-point cross from Song into the side netting. The Ecuadorian didn't get too much of a chance to shine in his opening match for the Jets, but some deft touches and imposing presence up front showed he might well be a good purchase for the champions this season.

Newcastle continued to pile on the pressure and went close to breaking the deadlock on a number of occasions. Tarek Elrich steamed onto a dangerous through ball only to be denied by Vukovic at the near post, Matt Thomspon saw his deflected shot bounce off the right post and Griffiths turned the defence inside out only see his shot well saved by the Mariners keeper.

Chances for the visitors were few and far between, Petrovski took advantage of a mistimed backpass from Adam Griffiths to break free but Hutchinson couldn't deal with a good cross at the six-yard box.

Against the run of play the Central Coast looked like it had stolen the game when substitute striker Matt Simon, who had only stepped off the plane from Australia's Olympic campaign hours earlier headed home in the 87th minute after a cross from Ahmed Elrich was headed back into the middle by new Mariners signing Predrag Bojic.

But the Jets never gave up and were rewarded for their determination right on full-time when Mariners defender Brad Porter brought down Tarek Elrich in the box and referee Matthew Breeze had no hesitation pointing to the spot. Jets skipper Griffiths sent Vukovic the wrong way much to the delight of the 16,000-strong crowd to earn the Jets a share of the points.

Newcastle Jets 1 (Griffiths 90pen) Central Coast Mariners 1 (Simon 87)

Crowd 16,079 at EnergyAustralia Stadium.