An unlikely goal from skipper Nigel Boogaard has kept Newcastle Jets alive in this year’s AFC Champions League after a 3-1 extra-time win over Persija Jakarta on Tuesday night.
In an entertaining clash in the Hunter, an extra 30 minutes was needed after Ramdani Lestaluhu’s 72nd-minute goal cancelled out Ronny Vargas’ opener early in the second half.
And Boogaard was the man who swung the game in the Jets’ favour, getting on the end of Ben Kantarovski’s flick-on at a corner to slam home the decisive goal in the 101st minute of the match.
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A powerful header by substitute Matthew Ridenton in the final minute of extra-time put the icing on the cake for the Hyundai A-League club.
The morale-boosting win now sets up a final qualifying round for the Jets to reach this year’s Group Stage.
The Jets will head to Japan next Tuesday night in a winner-takes-all clash against defending ACL champions Kashima Antlers, with the winner to go into the Group E.
In their first ACL game in a decade, the Jets made a fast start with Kaine Sheppard the first to force a save from Persija keeper Andritany Ardhiyasa.
While the visitors improved as the half went on, it was Newcastle who carved out the best opportunities of a goalless first-half, squandering two gilt-edged chances in the space of a minute.
Just after the half-hour mark, a heavy touch from Dimitri Petratos allowed Ardhiyasa to come out and collect the ball after the Jets playmaker was found in acres of space inside the box.
But that let-off was nothing compared to Roy O’Donovan’s miss barely 60 seconds later.
Daniel Georgievski got in behind down the left and delivered a perfect cross for the Irishman who opted to try and chest it in rather than use his head.
Unfortunately for the home side O’Donovan didn’t get enough on the ball, glancing it wide of the far post.
But the Jets number 9 made amends for that miss just four minutes after the break.
After being released by Sheppard’s classy volleyed through-ball, O’Donovan centred for Vargas to finish off from close range.
With their ACL hopes fading fast, Persija went on the attack and hit back with 18 minutes left via Lestaluhu.
The diminutive winger was left unmarked from a corner with his header sneaking over the line despite the best efforts of Georgievski to keep it out.
O’Donovan had the best chance to win it near the end as he blazed over from just eight yards out with 11 minutes to go as the match went to extra-time.
There were chances at both ends in the extra 30 minutes before Boogaard delivered the killer blow to send the Hunter Stadium crowd into raptures before Ridenton got his name on the scoresheet at the death.