A gutsy second-half performance and a first goal in two years from Gema Simon was not enough as the Newcastle Jets went down 2-1 in the opening match of our double-header against Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on Sunday afternoon.
In a tight first half, it was Victory who took the lead through Natasha Dowie in the 10th minute, before Darian Jenkins doubled the lead after 25 minutes and held a 2-0 advantage at the break.
Gema Simon went agonisingly close to halving the deficit before the break before the Jets skipper scored just her 8th goal in 122 appearances to drag the visitors back into the contest with half an hour remaining. Despite best efforts, the Jets could not find the equaliser as the home side held on to take the three points.
Craig Deans made just the one change from last week’s lineup, with Pana Petratos into the starting XI for the first time season and she almost made an instant impression when she had an early chance blocked by the Victory defence.
Clare Coelho was magnificent last week in goals for the Jets but could do nothing to stop the home side taking the lead in the 10th minute as Natasha Dowie’s header found the far corner of the net to open the scoring.
Victory doubled their lead in the 25th minute when Rosie Sutton’s close-range header beat Coelho, but not the post, and Darian Jenkins was presented with the simplest of chances from close range.
The Jets almost reduced arrears in the 36th minute when an excellent ball from Petratos found Nicki Flannery in space, and when her cross found the head of Gema Simon, her downward header was brilliantly turned around the post by Casey Dumont in the Melbourne goal.
Trailing at the break, the Jets produced a much improved second half and were rewarded when Simon found the back of the net when a kind deflection put her through on goal in the 61st minute.
Tara Andrews probed around the edge of the Victory area and when her pass deflected off a Victory player, it fell perfectly in the path of our skipper, who calmly slotted past the onrushing Dumont to bring the Jets back into the contest.
Jenna McCormick went close to reestablishing the two-goal lead for the hosts in the 68th minute, but the in-form Coelho produced another magnificent save to push her goalbound header around the post.
As the Jets chased an equaliser, Teigan Collister and Lauren Allan were introduced in the 73rd minute, and the two combined to almost level the scores in the 79th when Collister’s pinpoint cross found Allan at the back post, but she could not keep her header down from a tough angle.
Dowie was denied once again by Coelho in the dying stages as the Jets surged forward in search of another goal, but despite our best efforts, we were unable to find the leveller as the Victory held on.
Our Westfield W-League side now return home to take on Adelaide United from 5pm on Friday 10 January, the first match in a blockbuster doubleheader for Jets fans.