The Newcastle Jets travelled to Estadio Cartagonova, the home of FC Cartagena for the third and final match of their tour of Spain.
The boutique stadium in southern Spain provided a fitting backdrop to conclude a week that saw the Jets face strong AFC opposition and train at state-of-the-art facilities.
Cartagena opened the doors to this friendly fixture and a healthy crowd of more than 3,000 rolled into see the Jets from Newcastle.
It was a lively start from the home side, who had all the running in the opening exchanges.
Cartagena would catch the Jets on the break and despite the best efforts of Lachlan Jackson in cover defence, they found the back of the net after a strike deflected off the lunging defender – wrong-footing Noah James.
It was a tough start for James, playing his first senior game as Glen Moss was rested for the club’s FFA Cup clash on Tuesday against the Gold Coast.
Things would go from bad to worse for the debutant, who had a second goal ricochet in at close range after a goal line clearance from Joe Champnes.
Angus Thurgate worked hard in the middle of the park and won the ball in dangerous areas, but they were unable to finish their opportunities.
After turning to his younger players for the opening exchanges, Ernie Merrick brought on his senior brigade on for the second half with Ugarkovic, Ridenton, Topor-Stanley and the Petratos brothers joining the action.
The Jets would pull one back early in the second, as Ronny Vargas put on a beautiful ball to get O’Donovan through one-one-one and the Irishman made no mistake with the finish.
Originally Roy was called for offside, but the VAR – currently on trial in the league – ruled otherwise and the goal was awarded.
After a tough start to the match, Noah James came into his own making a number of key saves to keep the Jets within reach as Cartagena searched for more goals.
Despite his best efforts, a third would be added to the scoresheet by the home side in the 65th minute.
The Jets would be awarded a penalty shortly after as O’Donovan sealed a double with a clinical finish from the spot.
An equaliser came agonisingly close, with O’Donovan almost having a hat-trick as he hit the right upright from well outside the area.
To the delight of the home crowd, Cartagena held on to run out 3-2 winners.
The Jets will now focus on their FFA Cup clash on Tuesday 7 August.