Jets denied victory in Melbourne
Second-half goals by Tom Pondeljak and Robbie Kruse have sealed a 2-0 win for the Melbourne Victory over the Newcastle Jets at Etihad Stadium.
Two goals in the second-half by the Melbourne Victory has handed the Newcastle Jets their fourth straight defeat at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday evening.
To add to the 2-0 loss, Branko Culina's side were reduced to 10-men for the second consecutive match as Marcello Fiorentini was given his marching orders by referee Strebre Delovski just after the hour mark.
The send-off came just minutes after the home side took the lead through a Tom Pondeljak strike, and the Victory then made the most of the extra-man advantage late on to seal the win through a goal on return from Qantas Socceroo Robbie Kruse.
Both sides were forced to field weakened line-ups in the crucial encounter as key striker Ryan Griffiths missed the game for the visitors through suspension, while Melbourne were without their playmaker, Carlos Hernandez, who succumbed to a groin injury.
And the lack of continuity showed during what was a subdued opening 45 minutes.
Goalcoring opportunities were at a premium as the Jets looked to minimise the threat posed by in-form striker Danny Allsopp and his partner in crime, Kruse.
But Newcastle did create chances of their own through the likes of Labinot Haliti and Jeremy Brockie. Both strikers hit shots just over Michael Petkovic's goal in the early stages as the pair toiled hard without reward for their efforts.
Down the other end, Allsopp, Kruse and Marvin Angulo were looking to cause problems for the Jets rearguard, and with the majority of posession in the first-half, the Victory frontmen did have their chances to get a strike away on goal. But a combination of wayward finishing and excellent saves from shot-stopper Ben Kennedy saw the sides go into the break scoreless.
The home side would not have to wait long after the interval to gain the ascendency as Pondeljak netted just his second goal of the campaign thanks to a smart finish from outside the area. After receiving the ball from livewire midfielder Mate Dugandzic, Pondeljak hit a looping first-time strike with the outside of his boot to catch Kennedy inches off his line.
Fiorentini's dismissal in the 61st minute made a comeback for the Jets a monumental task against the Victory, who momentarily leapfrogged Gold Coast United into fourth spot with the win.
But Marko Jesic maintained the faith, and stung the palms of Petkovic with a stunning strike from distance in an attempt to restore parity.
Fans inside Etihad Stadium were then granted what they came to see, when Kruse, on return from national team duties at the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011, bulged the back of the net on 70 minutes. After a swift counter-attack initiated by Angulo down the left flank, Kruse showed great composure when one-on-one with Kennedy to seal Melbourne's third straight victory.
Culina responded by giving National Youth League (NYL) players Mario Simic and Jacob Pepper a run off the bench, joining their regular NYL colleagues James Virgili and Sam Gallaway in Hyundai A-League action.
Though the Jets battled valiantly until the final whistle, they would do so without claiming a goal and now turn their sights to their upcoming must-win games in Newcastle.
The Jets return to EnergyAustralia Stadium this Sunday, 6 February to take on NSW rivals Sydney FC in a mouth-watering do-or-die clash. An encounter with Perth Glory will follow on Thursday, 10 February.
There's never been a better time to be there for your team, simply visit www.proticket.com.au.
Match Details: Melbourne Victory: 1. Michael PETKOVIC (gk), 3. Mate DUGANDZIC, 4. Petar FRANJIC, 7. Matthew KEMP (17. Matthew FOSCHINI 76'), 11. Marvin ANGULO, 12. Rodrigo VARGAS, 13. Diogo FERREIRA (9. RICARDINHO 66'), 15. Tom PONDELJAK, 18. Danny ALLSOPP, 21. Robbie KRUSE (24. Luke PILKINGTON 83'), 23. Adrian LEIJER (c)
Unused Substitutes: 20. Sebastian MATTEI (gk)
Yellow Cards: Rodrigo Vargas 17'
Red Cards: Nil
Newcastle Jets: 1. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 3. Adam D'APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (c), 11. Tarek ELRICH, 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE, 14. Labinot HALITI (28. Mario SIMIC 73'), 16. Jeremy BROCKIE, 17. Marcello FIORENTINI, 18. Marko JESIC (31. Jacob PEPPER 73'), 25. Sam GALLAWAY, 26 James VIRGILI (9. Zhang SHUO 60')
Unused Substitutes: 40. Matt NASH (gk)
Yellow Cards: Jobe Wheelhouse 71'
Red Cards: Marcello Fiorentini 61'
Melbourne Victory: 2 (Pondeljak 57', Kruse 70') Newcastle Jets: 0