Clinical edge crucial to Sydney downing the Jets
Newcastle Jets interim coach Craig Deans says the quality of finishing was decisive as his side came away empty-handed against league-leaders Sydney FC on Friday night.
Bucking their recent troubles, the Jets dominated the second half of the contest at McDonald Jones Stadium but failed to convert their attacking threat into goals as they succumbed 2-1 to the Sky Blues.
Earlier, the teams exchanged counter-punches through an entertaining first half as Adam Le Fondre saw his opener cancelled out by a stunning Steven Ugakovic strike for the Jets.
However, a Kosta Barbarouses goal ten minutes before the break proved decisive for Sydney as they notched their tenth straight match without defeat to move 12 points clear atop the Hyundai A-League table.
Deans suggested to Fox Sports post-match that his bottom-placed side need to be more clinical if they are to translate their inspired fighting spirit into competition points in coming weeks.
“Obviously, the quality of finishing from Sydney was exceptional – that’s why they are where they are,” Deans explained.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to have a good look at ourselves and know exactly where we need to get better.
The Jets rued several missed opportunities throughout the match, with Abdiel Arroyo coming closest with a strike onto the crossbar on 53 minutes.
However, with his side preventing the visitors from fashioning a chance on goal throughout the second half, Deans was far from critical of his team’s application.
“[Finishing] has been on the training agenda for the whole season, to be honest, but we could defend better as well,” he explained.
“With the couple of goals we could defend them better from my point of view, so it is the whole package. We are creating chances as they have been all season and it is just a matter of taking them.
“But you can’t fault the effort, the attitude right the way through the whole game and I’m really proud of the boys.”
By contrast, Sydney FC continued to show their cutting edge in the attacking third by taking the win despite fashioning just four shots on goal all match.
Le Fondre, whose goal lifted his season’ tally to 13 and outright first in the competition’s Golden Boot race, said his combination with Barbarouses is only getting better.
“When we get chances we tend to put them away,” the Englishman explained.
“Kosta’s put one on for me and scored as well, so it is going really well.”
He dismissed suggestions his side had taken their opponents lightly despite the teams sitting at opposite ends of the table and the Jets reeling from the midweek departure of former coach Ernie Merrick.
“It was a really tough game. They are a bit of a wounded animal obviously with the leaving of their manager and we didn’t know what to expect," Le Fondre said of the Jets.
“We dug in really deep, and not played our best stuff, but came away with the result.”
He added: “Obviously we don’t want to be complacent and I don’t think we were complacent. We just were better defensively than we were going forward.”
Sydney face a next round bye before returning to Hyundai A-League duties against Melbourne Victory in a fortnight’s time, while the Jets turn their attentions to an away clash with Melbourne City.
Melbourne City v Newcastle Jets
Saturday, 18 January 2020
Kick off: 7.30pm AEDT