The race for the Hyundai A-League’s Premier’s Plate took yet another twist on Friday, when league leaders Melbourne Victory surprisingly lost 1-0 at home to the Newcastle Jets.
Phil Stubbins’ strugglers began the night in last place but moved ahead of Western Sydney Wanderers courtesy of their hard-fought win at AAMI Park.
The unlikely result came hours after Football Federation Australia announced that Perth Glory - level on points with Victory at the top of the table – would be excluded from this season’s final series for breaching the salary cap, leaving Sydney FC, Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United to battle Kevin Muscat’s men for the premiership.
WHAT THEY SAID
"It was a tough game, I think we played the best team in the league tonight and we gave them a run for their money and got the three points so we're happy." Newcastle Jets defender Daniel Mullen
0-1 (Edson Montano, 54’)
Nick Ansell failed to clear Enver Alivodic’s cross and Montano did well to somehow smuggle the ball past goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas at close range.
In the 34th minute Guilherme Finkler played Archie Thompson in behind Jets left-back Lee Ki-Je with a well-weighted pass.
The veteran prodded the ball between the legs of covering defender Taylor Regan before stabbing his shot inches wide of the far post. It was one of Victory’s best chances of the night and could have changed the course of the game had it gone in.
Substitute Kosta Barbarouses, on in place of Thompson, also missed a great chance to equalise, shooting across goal and wide with four minutes to go.
The hosts had 59.7 percent possession and five shots on target to the Jets’ one, but that was all Stubbins’ men needed to register the upset of the season.
As Victory attacked increasingly desperately in search of an equaliser, captain Mark Milligan went on a mazy run into the penalty area, dancing past several Jets defenders before having the ball taken off him just as he prepared to shoot. It would have been quite some goal, but it wasn’t to be for the skipper or his team on the night.
Ansell has generally been very steady alongside various different partners at centre-back this season, but Victory coach Kevin Muscat won’t have been impressed by his efforts in the move that led to the Jets’ goal. First the youngster hooked a clearance that was going long back into the danger zone and then he failed to shut down the threat posed by Montano, which appeared to be minimal until the Ecuadorian bundled the ball past Thomas at the stand-in goalkeeper’s near post.
THE FINAL WORD
Victory will now prepare for two crucial matches away to Brisbane Roar in quick succession, while the Jets have another opportunity to dent the hopes of a team challenging for the Premier’s Plate when they play host to Sydney FC.
Melbourne Victory: Lawrence Thomas (GK), Leigh Broxham, Nicholas Ansell, Mathieu Delpierre, Daniel Georgievski, Mark Milligan, Carl Valeri (Jesse Makarounas 77’), Guilherme Finkler, Archie Thompson (Kosta Barbarouses 62’), Besart Berisha, Fahid Ben Khalfallah.
Newcastle Jets: Ben Kennedy (GK), Daniel Mullen, Taylor Regan, Lee Ki-Je, Andrew Hoole (Max Burgess 69’), Jacob Pepper, Allan Welsh, Nicholas Cowburn, Mitch Cooper (Ben Kantarovski 86’), Edson Montano, Enver Alivodic.
Scorers: Montano (54’)
Red cards: None
Yellow cards: Cowburn (47’), Alivodic (75’)
Conditions: 16 degrees, dry
Attendance: 19,277 @ AAMI Park