Jets bow out despite valiant display

The Newcastle Jets have been defeated 3-1 in a thrilling extra-time encounter against the Wellington Phoenix in their elimination Hyundai A-League Semi-Final this evening in front of a sell-out crowd at Westpac Stadium.

The Newcastle Jets have been defeated 3-1 in a thrilling extra-time encounter against the Wellington Phoenix in their elimination Hyundai A-League Semi-Final this evening in front of a sell-out crowd at Westpac Stadium.

The gritty visitors were valiant throughout, and couldn-t have asked for a better start when skipper Matt Thompson put the Jets a goal up in the 20th minute, however Tim Brown equalised thirteen minutes later which ultimately sent the match into extra-time. During the additional period, the Phoenix would score twice through Paul Ifill and Eugene Dadi as the Jets pushed up the pitch looking for a winner of their own.

The result sees the Jets bow out of their fourth finals foray, with the focus of the club now shifting to next season.

Thompson-s eighth goal of the season came courtesy of a desperate Jobe Wheelhouse header, when the hard-hitting midfielder was first to a weak Phoenix clearance, nodding the ball into Thompson-s path. The in-form captain controlled the ball expertly with the outside of his right foot before sending a thunderous strike into the top corner to silence the majority of the 32,792 supporters inside the ‘Cake Tin-.

Moments later and it seemed that Wellington-s defensive midfielder Manny Muscat would equalise after he was played in neatly by Brown, but goalkeeper Ben Kennedy came to the Jets- rescue to hold the low strike at the first time of asking.

The home side would restore parity in the 33rd minute, though, when former Jet Brown lashed home a strike from close range after Barbados international striker Paul Ifill scrambled well inside the penalty area to lay the ball square to Brown-s lethal left-foot.

With very little time remaining in the opening stanza, dynamic right-back Tarek Elrich was played clean through on goal by an Ali Abbas pass. However, Phoenix custodian Liam Reddy would send the teams into the break locked at 1-all, making a reflex save down to his left.

Just after the interval, Abbas was looking even more dangerous, skipping past Troy Hearfield on the left flank before knocking in a delightful ball for Thompson who-s usually sublime touch let him down with the goal at his mercy.

As the second half progressed, the match became increasingly open as both sides looked for the knockout punch.

Again it was the lively Abbas who looked the most likely and in the final minute of regular time he knocked in another wonderful ball across the face of goal, which tireless substitute Mirjan Pavlovic unfortunately hit just over the bar from 12 yards.

So, with neither side able to secure the valuable second goal during the 90 minutes, the thrilling sudden-death encounter moved into extra-time.

The additional 30 minutes proved to be a nail-biting time for both teams, and indeed during the first stanza both Ifill and substitute Sasho Petrovski hit the post at either end with superb strikes from outside the box.

Then, in injury time, Ifill-s individual brilliance came to the fore. Lurking wide on the right, the skilful frontman was picked out by Brown and managed to twist his way to the edge of the area before unleashing a superb left-footed strike just inside the far post, giving Kennedy no chance.

Though the strike was a dagger to the heart of the visitors, the Jets pressed on with Petrovski and Pavlovic both forcing fine saves from Reddy with time winding down.

With five minutes to play, the Phoenix caught Newcastle on the break, with substitutes Diego and Dadi combining, the Ivory Coast striker tapping into an empty net to end what was a memorable and epic finals fixture.

After the match, Head Coach Branko Culina praised the effort and endeavour of his troops.

“Absolutely smashing effort by the Newcastle Jets players,” he said. “We were undermanned, we had players that couldn-t walk let alone run but they stuck it out and we gave them a run for their money.”

“Had we taken our chances early on through Tarek and Thommo it would have been a different ball game but it wasn-t to be so congratulations to Wellington, well done and good luck,” he said.

Match Details: Wellington Phoenix: 40. Liam REDDY (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS (11. DANIEL 66-), 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 13. Troy HEARFIELD (15. Eugene DADI 74-), 17. Vince LIA (5. DIEGO 109-), 18. Ben SIGMUND, 22. Andrew DURANTE (c)

Unused substitutes: 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES Yellow cards: Andrew Durante 99- Red cards: Nil

Newcastle Jets: 1. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 5. Ljubo MILICEVIC, 6. Ben KANTAROVSKI, 7. Jin-Hyung SONG (25. Labinot HALITI 80-), 8. Matt THOMPSON (c) (9. Sasho PETROVSKI 85-), 11. Tarek ELRICH, 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE, 15. Sean ROONEY (29. Mirjan PAVLOVIC 68-), 26. Ali ABBAS

Unused substitutes: 30. Dion SHAW (gk), 22. Kaz PATAFTA Yellow cards: Jobe Wheelhouse 45-, Ali Abbas 88- Red cards: Nil

Wellington Phoenix: 3 (Brown 33-, Ifill 105+1-, Dadi 115-) Newcastle Jets: 1 (Thompson 20-) Referee: Chris Beath Crowd: 32,792