Wales punishes misfiring Jets as Western United close on top six
Lachlan Wales’ first-minute goal proved to be enough for Western United to move within touching distance of the A-League's top six following a 1-0 win against the toothless Newcastle Jets.
The Green and Black are hitting their stride with a third win in four games but they had to survive waves of pressure as the Hunter side’s enterprising build-up play amounted to nothing at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Craig Deans’ team started on the worst possible footing following a disastrous opening 36 seconds that saw their defence ripped open by a simple Dylan Pierias’ pass and Wales made it back-to-back scoring games in the space of five days after going 10 matches for the club without a goal.
The Jets' pacey attacking quartet of Valentino Yuel, Ramy Najjarine, Apostolos Stamatelopoulos and Roy O’Donovan created a series of dangerous opportunities but the struggling outfit could not find any cutting edge to force themselves back into the game despite leading the shot count 20 to seven.
Western United coach Mark Rudan once again named captain Alessandro Diamanti as a substitute but, as he did in last week’s 2-1 win against Melbourne City, their Italian talisman came off the bench to great effect to help lock down the game and claim all three points.
The Victorian club now sit two points back from the Finals Series spots in seventh, having played fewer games than five of the six teams ahead of them, while Newcastle are left stranded in 11th place, and 11 points off the top six, following a club-record sixth defeat in a row.
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Lachlan Wales opened his Western United account last week and it took the 23-year-old less than a minute to double his tally when the Jets’ defence inexplicably parted to leave the ex-Melbourne City forward with acres of space to collect from Dylan Pierias’ through ball and add a simple first-time finish.
Jets gloveman Lewis Italiano was sent flying across his goal to deny Iker Guarrotxena's attempt before the home side began to recover from the early setback as Apostolos Stamatelopoulos’ surging run and cross was stabbed towards goal, but Roy O’Donovan could not get enough on his back heel, and Valentino Yuel rifled an effort straight at shot-stopper Ryan Scott, who started ahead of the returning Filip Kurto.
Ramy Najjarine was producing a spark as Newcastle’s exciting attack began to click with O’Donovan again coming close with a back-heel flick in the 23rd minute and Yuel’s improvised overhead kick sailed over the target on the half hour mark after a Jets free-kick was only half cleared.
Stamatelopoulos saw his stinging strike deflect wide from a tight angle and Nikolai Topor-Stanley headed over from Najjarine’s corner as the Hunter outfit pushed hard in the lead up to half-time but they could not fashion an end product from their encouraging play. That trend that continued after the interval when Angus Thurgate lifted a shot over from a good position after strong play from Yuel in the 52nd minute.
Mark Rudan introduced his talismanic captain Alessandro Diamanti from the bench shortly afterwards and the Italian playmaker produced a stunning pass to release Connor Pain, who stung the hands of Jets keeper Italiano, as Stamatelopoulos came close again with another deft flick following more encouraging Jets play as the clock passed the hour mark.
Besart Berisha thought he had doubled the advantage only for an offside flag to deny him a seventh goal of the season from Pierias' cross, and Topor-Stanley made a vital block to stop Wales netting another in the 80th minute as the Newcastle defence were left clinging on. But their attack would not prove as effective, with substitute Jason Hoffman skewing a late half-volley off target as the Jets fell to an unwanted record run of six straight losses.
Next fixtures – Matchweek 16
Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Victory
Saturday, 10 April 2021
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Kick-off: 3.05pm AEST
Wellington Phoenix v Western United
Sunday, 11 April 2021
Venue: WIN Stadium
Kick-off: 7.05pm AEST
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