The Newcastle Jets have taken another step towards qualification for the 2019 AFC Champions League, with a 3-1 victory over Persija Jakarta at Newcastle Stadium.
The Jets did it the hard way, taking the match to extra time before netting two goals to seal the result.
Ernie Merrick’s side were dominant early, controlling the play for long periods but unable to convert their opportunities.
A headed effort from Nigel Boogaard fell just over the crossbar and onto the netting, Dimi Petratos had a free-kick from good range and Kaine Sheppard almost toe-poked home.
Marko Simic – fresh from a court appearance early in the day – proved a presence up front and looked the most likely for the visiting Persija side.
The striker’s touches throughout the match caused raucous booing from the Newcastle faithful, but the marksman seemed unperturbed by the extra attention.
Persija worked their way into things and enjoyed their own periods of dominance, with a flurry of chances on the Jets goal just past the 15-minute mark.
O’Donovan had a golden chance mid-way through the half, as Daniel Georgievski whipped in a pin-point cross – but the Irishman just couldn’t finish with his head.
Despite lacking some polish in the final third, the Jets were looking sharp as Sheppard, Paetratos and O’Donovan all combined well.
Despite that, the teams went to the break all-square with the Jets enjoying the best of the play.
The deadlock was soon broken by Ronny Vargas, who finished a quick counter attack from the home side. Kaine Sheppard created some space for O’Donovan with a clever overhead flick before the Irishman squared up for Venezuelan to finish.
Chances continued to flow for the Jets but they were unable to land a killer blow, with things quickly turning when Persija levelled in the 72nd minute through a header from the set piece by Lestaluhu.
As the match progressed Merrick turned to his bench, injecting the fresh legs of Ridenton, Thurgate and Cowburn – each brought energy and running as the match reached its conclusion, but not the go-ahead goal.
Regulation time finished all-square and it was onto extra time, where the unlikeliest of scorers would give the Jets the lead.
Skipper, Nigel Boogaard found himself at the back post from a corner kick and slotted home the Jets second to send the home crowd into raptures.
The match was eventually sealed by Matt Ridenton, with a sharp header from a wide attacking free kick in the dying stages.
The Jets will now focus their attention on Melbourne City this Friday, before a trip to Kashima to tackle the Antlers next Tuesday for a spot in the AFC Champions League 2019 Group Stage.