Despite a gutsy second half display, the Newcastle Jets were defeated 4-2 by Sydney FC in the Townsville Football Cup on Wednesday night.
The Jets had the first opportunity of the match when Craig Goodwin was brought down on the edge of the area in the 2nd minute.
Joel Griffiths stepped-up to take the free-kick, but could only drive the ball into the Sydney FC wall, before hitting his follow-up volley wide of the target.
Newcastle showed good attacking intent in the opening stages, earning back-to-back corners inside the first five minutes and asking questions of the Sky Blues’ defence.
However, Sydney responded strongly, with midfielder Terry Antonis sending a warning shot of what was to come with an ambitious volley from outside of the area that was deflected just wide of Mark Birighitti’s goal for a corner.
A short time later, Sydney had the ball in the back of the net through Corey Gameiro, only for the goal to be disallowed after the referee had already blown his whistle to stop play for a foul on Pedj Bojic in the lead-up.
Birighitti was called on to make a sharp reflex save at his near post from the ensuing free-kick from Nikola Petkovic, before blocking Sasa Ognenovski’s follow-up effort from point-blank range.
The Jets shot-stopper was in the thick of the action again in the 24th minute, blocking Corey Gameiro’s effort from inside the six-yard box, after Bojic’s cross had found the Sydney striker unmarked at the back post.
After a number of close shaves, the Sky Blues did eventually hit the front in the 34th minute after Sam Gallaway was adjudged to have brought down Bojic in the box.
Ali Abbas stepped-up to send Birighitti the wrong way with his penalty kick, making it 1-0 in favour of Sydney FC.
Five minutes later, Antonis skimmed the top crossbar with a 30-metre strike that had Birighitti scrambling.
Sydney doubled their lead in the 40th minute with Alex Brosque burying a superb header into the bottom corner from an Alex Gersbach cross that gave Birighitti no chance.
The Sky Blues added another goal just two minutes later, after Adrian Madaschi left his back pass to Birighitti short of the mark and Gameiro pounced on the mistake to make it 3-0.
With the possibility of being on the receiving end on their second unflattering score line in the space of a few days, the Jets turned to their stand-in captain Joel Griffiths for inspiration.
Jonny Steele set Craig Goodwin clear down the left flank, before the winger delivered a super cross towards Griffiths who calmly side-footed the ball past Ivan Necevski to make it 3-1 heading into the half-time interval.
Buoyed by Griffiths’ goal on the stroke of half-time, the Jets looked a completely different outfit in the second half, dominating much of the play and creating a number of clear-cut chances.
David Carney whipped in a dangerous free-kick from the left flank in the 50th minute that picked out Madaschi’s purposeful run into the penalty area, only for the former Socceroo to strike a powerful header just over the crossbar.
Another Carney set-piece two minutes later provided another fantastic opportunity for the Jets, with Madaschi directing his header wide of the mark on this occasion.
Just a minute later, Griffiths saw Necevski off his line and tired an ambitious dipping volley from 25 metres out that flashed just wide of the goal-mouth.
The Jets’ dominance to start the second half eventually paid dividends in the 61st minute, and it was no surprise that the Jets’ second goal came via another Carney free-kick.
The former Socceroo delivered a pin-point cross from the left flank towards the back post, where Edson Montano was on hand to nestle the ball in the bottom corner of the goal with a splendid diving header.
However, Newcastle’s joy was short-lived, with Sydney FC awarded their second penalty of the game in the 65th minute after Gallaway was deemed to have pushed Gameiro in the back.
Abbas again stepped-up to take the penalty, sliding the ball underneath Birighitti to make it 4-2.
The Jets had an opportunity to reduce the deficit back to a single goal two minutes later with Jeronimo making a smart run in behind the Sydney defence, only to hit his shot straight at Necevski.
Jeronimo was given his marching orders in the 70th minute following a rash tackle on Abbas, leaving the Jets with 10 men for the final 20 minutes of the contest.
Despite being a man down, Newcastle finished the match strongly, remaining compact in defence and limiting Sydney’s opportunities in the attacking third to ensure the final score read 4-2 in favour of the Sky Blues.
Sydney FC 4 (Abbas 34’ pen, 65' pen, Brosque 40’, Gameiro 42’)
Newcastle Jets 2 (Griffiths 45’, Montano 61’)