Jets take out Qantas Challenge

A full house at EnergyAustralia Stadium was abuzz tonight as the Newcastle Jets completed their ‘Festival of Football’ with a 2-1 win against the LA Galaxy in the Qantas Challenge.

A full house at EnergyAustralia Stadium was abuzz tonight as the Newcastle Jets completed their ‘Festival of Football- with a 2-1 win against the LA Galaxy in the Qantas Challenge.

Tonight, the culmination of six weeks of intense behind the scenes work saw a crowd of 23,317 show their support for a club riding a wave of community-driven enthusiasm.

The Jets are proud to announce the match raised $15,000 for its charity partner Hunter Medical Research Institute through the three goals scored. But HMRI stands to gain much more when the club-s Charity Jersey Auction concludes on Tuesday.

One bidder tonight upped the ante on the autographed and match-worn David Beckham jersey up for grabs, laying down a $10,000 bid, while Landon Donovan and the Jets- own Marko Jesic also attracted high bids.

Outside the stadium gates, a carnival atmosphere prevailed in the lead-up to the game as fans enjoyed live music and live broadcasts from Fox Sports and ABC Newcastle.

Inside the venue, the Jets- first sell-out of the season lived up to all the hype, with attacking football and hard-as-nails tackling belying the game-s ‘friendly- tag.

The crowd roared for Beckham as he lined up for one of his trademark free kicks early on in the match- the fact the ball sailed over the cross bar hardly mattered as camera flashes lit up EnergyAustralia Stadium to great effect.

Captain Landon Donovan put the Galaxy ahead after just seven minutes, pouncing on a mistake from Jets goalkeeper Matthew Nash.

Jets mid-fielder Ruben Zadkovich found some space in the 27the minute on the way to goal and while the final delivery went wide of the mark, the Jets were starting to make inroads into the Galaxy defence.

It was last week-s hero Sasho Petrovski who got the Jets back on level terms to the delight of the crowd, calmly slotting home an Ali Abbas cross for the goal.

Petrovski-s strike - coming after he scored a 92nd minute goal last week to help the Jets salvage a draw against the Central Coast - capped a strong finish to the first half for the Jets.

A Kasey Wehrman long ball saw Labinot Haliti connect for the Jets- second goal to send the crowd wild.

But it was none other than David Beckham that sent the crowd into its wildest frenzy of the night, when he ran over to the Eastern Grandstand, removed his shirt and threw it into the arms of one very lucky female fan.

Beckham played the entire match despite having a nagging injury and later said he felt obliged to put on a great show for the people of Newcastle to thank them for their support.

Tonight-s Qantas Challenge capped one of Australian sport-s great turnarounds - as the Newcastle Jets was a club in complete disarray just over eight weeks ago when the new ownership of Nathan Tinkler commenced.

The Jets were re-launched as a “not for profit” community asset, underlined by a strong theme of involvement for Newcastle, the Hunter and Northern NSW communities.

Starting with one of Australian professional sports- smallest membership and corporate bases, the Jets - operating with a skeleton staff behind the scenes -achieved massive strides on and off the field in less than six weeks since the tour was announced.

This major international exhibition event would normally be six months in the planning in a structured and stable environment.

Off the field, the team-s spectacular return to form has been embraced by a loyal and growing fan base.

The Galaxy phenomenon has seen numerous amazing milestones achieved, including:

• A first time million dollar plus gate for the Jets • 62 corporate partners purchased more than 1,000 seats for the Galaxy match • 35 first-time corporate partners recently committed to the club, with more than a dozen purchasing full A-League season packages • In order of $600,000 in new sponsorship and $400,000 in corporate hospitality sales for the Galaxy match alone • A projected multi-million boost to Hunter tourism and economy • A sell-out of all hotels in the region

This has all been achieved during a period where the Jets have dramatically increased home crowds, as well as having to accommodate four home games plus the Galaxy match in a two-week period - it-s ‘Festival of Football-.

Despite the EnergyAustralia Stadium surface rendered unplayable just three weeks ago following a motocross event, Hunter Venues and the Jets were the driving force behind an unprecedented re-turfing effort, while ensuring fans who missed out on cancelled matches were provided with free tickets and transport to alternate locations such as Port Macquarie on October 31.

Jets Executive Chairman Ken Edwards said the Jets, and the Tinkler Sports Group, was particularly proud to provide a premium international event to the region.

The Jets look forward to seeing you at our next A-League match!

NEWCASTLE JETS FC 2 (Sasho Petrovski 39th minute, Labinot Haliti 52th minute) bt LA Galaxy 1 (Landon Donovan 7th minute) FC 1