The Newcastle Jets have taken out the Free Trade Port Super Champions Cup following victories over Chinese Super League heavyweights, Shanghai Shenhau and Changchun Yatai.
Ernie Merrick kept the majority of his senior players at home in Newcastle, but despite the lack of experience his side was able to secure top honours over their more fancied opponents.
The squad arrived back in Australia this morning having collected the tournament trophy and a $130,000 in prize money.
Led by Ben Kantarovski, the Jets stunned Shanghai Shenhua in the opening match of the tournament as they ran out 2 – 0 winners.
Jason Hoffman got off the mark for 2018/19 quickly with a goal in the first half, as he snuck to the back post and finished with precision from an attacking free kick.
Jack Simmons – one of five youth players on tour – would secure the Jets first victory with an impressive finish in the dying stages, capping off a memorable senior debut for the 16-year old.
On a short preparation, the Jets ran out strongly in the extremely humid conditions to keep Shenhua scoreless.
Jets boss, Ernie Merrick said that the entire experience would prove invaluable for the group as they prepare for their 2018/19 campaign.
“To go across with such a young group and to come away with a positive result against quality opposition is really pleasing,” Merrick said.
“We had five youth players as part of the squad and they each impressed me, I thought Gus (Thurgate) was outstanding and Jack (Simmons) showed great composure with his finish against Shanghai.”
It was a short turnaround for the Jets clash with Changchun Yatai, with match being decided by penalties following a 1 – 1 finish after 90 minutes.
After going behind a goal early, Matt Ridenton found the back of the net for his new club with an impressive headed effort from a James Virgili cross.
Glen Moss would ultimately prove the hero, making some crucial stops in the closing stages of regular time before stepping up and saving three penalties to secure the Jets second victory.
“I thought Glen Moss was absolutely outstanding,” Merrick added.
“He showed all of his class and experience in the second half to get us over the line against Changchun Yatai.
“His presence around such a young group of players was particularly important and he led the way off the field with his experience touring internationally.
Merrick also said that the pre-season tournament also offered his side some insight into what they can come to expect if they qualify for the Asian Champions League (ACL).
“We’ve got a couple of (ACL) qualifiers set for early-2018 and this trip showed the boys what it could be like if we qualify for the group stage,” Merrick said.
“There will be plenty of short turnarounds, matches in tough conditions and lots of time in transit.
“I thought the boys handled the whole experience really well and we couldn’t have asked for a better start to our pre-season.”
Tournament: Free Trade Port Super Champions Cup, Haikou, China
Participating teams: Newcastle Jets, Sydney FC, Shanghai Shenhau and Changchun Yatai
Match 1 – Newcastle Jets 2 (25’ Hoffman, 83’ Simmons) defeat Shanghai Shenhua 0
Match 2 – Sydney FC 2 defeat Changchun Yatai 0
Match 3 – Newcastle Jets 1 (25’ Ridenton) defeat Changchun Yatai 1 (Jets win 3 – 1 on penalties)
Match 4 – Shanghai Shenhua 2 defeat Sydney FC 0
Newcastle Jets squad: 1.Jack DUNCAN, 3.Jason HOFFMAN, 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI, 6.Steven UGARKOVIC, 13.Ivan VUJICA, 16.Nick COWBURN, 18.Johnny KOUTROUMBIS, 19.Kosta PETRATOS, 20.Glen MOSS, 22.Lachlan JACKSON, 23.Matthew RIDENTON, 24.Joe CHAMPNESS, 32.Angus THURGATE, Jack SIMMONS, Jackson FRENDO, Kieran HAYES, James VIRGILLI