Jets earn point in last minute thriller

The Newcastle Jets have played out a thrilling 1-1 draw with arch rivals the Central Coast Mariners in the first game of the 2008/09 Hyundai A-League Season at EnergyAustralia Stadium tonight.

The Newcastle Jets have played out a thrilling 1-1 draw with arch rivals the Central Coast Mariners in the first game of the 2008/09 Hyundai A-League Season at EnergyAustralia Stadium tonight. A healthy crowd of 16,079 came out to see the reigning Hyundai A-League Champions begin their title defence.

It took 18 minutes Jets Marquee signing, Edmundo Zura to be brought into the game for the first time, much to the excitement of the home faithful. Seemingly through one-on-one with goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, Zura was pulled up for offside, leaving the large crowd wanting more.

Moments later and Korean import, Jin-Hyung Song had a chance, but his strike from 18 yards was held well by Vukovic.

Both sides remained relatively cautious throughout the first half and the 0-0 halftime scoreline was a reflection of that.

3 minutes after the interval and Zura once again had an opportunity to open his Hyundai A-League goal tally. Song delivered a delightful ball into the box which eventually fell to the Ecuadorian-s head. Unfortunately though, his effort went into the side-netting.

Drama unfolded in the73rd minute when the Jets hit the post from a Matt Thompson drive which deflected off Mariners- defender, Andrew Clark. Thompson-s shot from just inside the area seemed certain to be heading for the back of the net.

In the 80th minute Joel Griffiths was played in well by substitute Noel Spencer. Griffiths cut inside his defender but his low shot was saved by the feet of Vukovic.

Mariners substitute Matt Simon then appeared to have stolen the game in the 87th minute, heading home a Pedj Bojic knock down from close range, leaving Ante Covic with no chance. It was Simon-s first goal in Hyundai A-League competition and came upon his return from Olyroos duties in Beijing this week.

A dramatic penalty then followed in the 90th minute, when Mariners midfielder Brad Porter struck Tarek Elrich in the penalty area, giving the Jets one last chance at saving the game. The stage was then set for last season-s golden boot winner to earn his team a well-deserved point. Griffiths made no mistake stepping up to the plate to strike the winning penalty shot, and sending Vukovic the wrong way in the process.

Both sides pressed on for a last minute goal yet no-one succeeded, leaving the teams to share the spoils in a hard fought season opener. Youngster Ben Kantarovski impressed in his Hyundai A-League debut and didn-t look at all out of place in the centre of defence.

At the conclusion of the game, Jets- Head coach, Gary van Egmond, was relatively happy with his team-s performance, but felt they could have made more of their chances if given a little luck.

“There were a lot of pleasing aspects that we got out of the game,” said van Egmond. “We probably felt like we lost two points.”

Newcastle Jets: 1 Ante Covic, 2 Adam Griffiths, 5 James Holland (79- 18 Noel Spencer), 8 Matt Thompson, 9 Joel Griffiths (c), 10 Jin-Hyung Song, 11 Tarek Elrich, 12 Jobe Wheelhouse, 13 Adam D-Apuzzo, 16 Ben Kantarovski, 23 Edmundo Zura (67- 15 Jason Hoffman)

Unused substitutes: 17 Antun Kovacic, 20 Ben Kennedy

Central Coast Mariners: 4. Pedj Bojic, 5. Bradley Porter, 6. David D-Apuzzo, 7. John Hutchinson, 10. Adrian Caceres (88- 9. Nik Mrdja), 15. Andrew Clark, 17. Matthew Osman, 18. Alex Wilkinson (c), 20. Danny Vukovic (gk), 21. Ahmad Elrich, 22. Sasho Petrovski (67- 19. Matt Simon)

Unused substitutes: 30 Andrew Redmayne, 13 Paul O-Grady.

Crowd: 16,079 Referee: Matthew Breeze