Newcastle Jets are still searching for their first win of the Hyundai A-League season after squandering a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Melbourne Victory at Hunter Stadium on Saturday.
The home side looked on track for a drought-breaking win when goals to skipper Kew Jaliens and Joel Griffiths had Phil Stubbins’ side 2-0 up inside 33 minutes.
But the Victory showed all their class to fight back, first through Fahid Ben Khalfallah nine minutes before the break before Besart Berisha leveled things up early in the second half.
WHAT THEY SAID
“We’re disappointed. If you’re 2-0 in front you have to take it home. It’s disappointing the way they equalized but we still have one point, we have to learn from this game and keep going.” - Jets skipper Kew Jaliens
“We’ll take a point after the start that we had. You can’t give teams a 2-0 lead and expect to take three points. It’s credit to the boys showed tremendous character to come back into the game, especially in tough conditions.” - Victory skipper Mark Milligan
1-0 Jaliens (31’) – David Carney’s corner to the near post was flicked on by Taylor Regan, with Jaliens getting free of his marker, slamming into the roof of the net from close range.
2-0 Griffiths (33’) – After referee Strebre Delovski adjudged Ben Khalfallah had brought down Scott Neville in the box, Griffiths coolly converted from the spot with a powerful finish to Nathan Coe’s left.
2-1 Ben Khalfallah (36’) – The danger appeared to be cleared when Jets ‘keeper Mark Birighitti blocked Besart Berisha’s effort. But the rebound was volleyed back across goal by Gui Finkler, bouncing perfectly into the path of the Tunisian to head home.
2-2 Berisha (48’) – Ben Khalfallah’s sublime first-time pass split the Jets’ centre-backs, with Berisha sent through on goal before slotting it low past Mark Birighitti.
The Jets were cruising at 2-0 up just after the half hour mark but could only hold that advantage for all of three minutes. With their first clear sight of goal, Ben Khalfallah pulled a goal back nine minutes before the break to drag the visitors back into the contest.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
The Jets have now gone seven home games without defeat against Melbourne Victory, last losing to them on home soil back in October of 2009.
Victory’s second goal came after a superb defence-splitting pass from Ben Khalfallah. Found by Adrian Leijer, the Tunisian produced a classy first-time ball which split Jets centre-backs Jaliens and Regan, sending Berisha clear through on goal to level the scores.
Victory skipper Mark Milligan had a great chance to put his side in front nine minutes after the break. Presented with a free header from Gui Finkler’s free-kick, Milligan failed to force Birighitti into a save, heading over from just six yards out.
Victory defender Scott Galloway was forced off just after the hour mark with a knee injury, which could have his involvement with the Olyroos for their upcoming tour next week in doubt.
THE FINAL WORD
The Jets are still searching for their first win but will take plenty of confidence out of more than matching the unbeaten league-leaders. The new-look surface at Hunter Stadium held up quite well also and should be even better for the visit of champions Brisbane Roar on Friday night.
Despite being below their best the Victory should be delighted to come away from Newcastle with a point, especially after trailing 2-0 after just 33 minutes. The result sets up a blockbuster top-of-the-table clash with Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium next weekend.
Newcastle Jets: Birighitti, Neville (Galloway 54’), Regan, Jaliens, Kantarovski, Caravella, Griffiths (Hoole 77’), Gallagher, Montano, Welsh (Flores 84’), Carney
Melbourne Victory: Coe, Milligan, Broxham, Finkler, Berisha (Thompson 70’), Barbarouses, Khalfallah, Georgievski, Valeri, Leijer (Mahazi 77’), Galloway (Murnane 60’)
Scorers: Jaliens (31’), Griffiths (33’), Ben Khalfallah (36’), Berisha (48’)
Red cards: N/A
Yellow cards: Welsh (63’), Montano (66’), Leijer (75’), Flores (90+3’)
Conditions: 24C, Dry