Round 17 was full of interesting contests and plenty of controversy. The highlight of the weekend was a five-goal thriller between the Perth Glory…
In the lead-up to the Newcastle Jets’ Round 4 home game against the Wellington Phoenix, questions were being asked about the home team’s lapses in defence.
About their inability to keep a clean sheet. Could they stop gifting the opposition goals?
Mention of a Phoenix curse was even lurking in the shadows of McDonald Jones Stadium prior to the Friday night kick-off.
By 10pm, all that talk was dead. The Papas revolution has well and truly kicked into life here in the Hunter Valley. The Newcastle United Jets Football Club is back, and back with a bang!
Valentino Yuel started this game where he’d left off against Sydney FC in the previous round. Both he and Cameroonian import Olivier Boumal caused Wellington havoc in the first half.
The first goal finally arrived in the 32nd minute and typified what this Newcastle team is all about: passing with purpose. A quickly taken free-kick by Jordan Elsey, deep in his own half, and nine passes later the ball was in the back of the net.
Passes both long and short, and certainly accurate. Player movements, rotation of positions as well as decoy runs. Georgian Beka Mikeltadze completed the move. It was very much a team goal of true quality. Papasbal, A-League football at its best.
The game continued in much the same vein and the Jets should have scored a second after Daniel Penha’s strike was too hot for Phoenix keeper Ollie Sail to hang onto. Yuel’s follow up was mistimed and soared over the bar. 1-0 at halftime.
Early in the second half Yuel was pulled down by Phoenix right fullback Cameron Elliott, earning the ire of both the crowd and the referee. Yellow card dispatched, O’Doherty’s free kick was floated in and centre back Elsey went close to scoring with a header.
The second Newcastle goal was again the result of multiple passes, ten this time, with Mikeltadze netting his second goal and his third for the season. Penha then rattled the crossbar with a spectacular long-range rocket in the 62nd minute.
Penha and Mikeltadze then combined with the former rolling the ball to left back Dylan Murnane. He finished his chance looking like a seasoned striker, as opposed to a flying wingback.
The fourth goal was again slick passing in and around the Wellington box. Substitute Sam Silvera was heavily involved with Penha capping off a fine personal performance with his first A-League goal. Silvera himself went close to scoring in the 86th minute, but Sail spread himself to block his shot.
4-0 at full-time. Not a complete performance, but not far off.
Defensively, the Jets did extremely well all over the field. Pressing continually, the energy levels looked high and Papas’s substitutions were well timed. Mikeltadze not only scored two but his second half sliding block to deflect the progress of a Tim Paine effort just highlighted what a team player the Newy No.9 is.
There was certainly a defensive urgency in this game that maybe wasn’t quite there enough in previous games. If this continues, this Newcastle team will certainly attract more fans to home games.
The 6332 who were in attendance were buzzing. It was arguably the best active home support for a couple of years, too. With the next home fixture against a struggling Western Sydney Wanderers, surely the numbers will rise significantly. It’s a late Boxing Day afternoon game that has all the potential to be cracker of an encounter.
Round 5, though, is an away fixture to the table-topping Macarthur FC. Another test for the Newcastle Jets.
This fast-learning team have no reason to fear any opposition, though. One good game and excellent result may not be season defining, but it’s a big step in the right direction.