A depleted Melbourne Victory lost its second match of the season by a goal to nil against Newcastle Jets in Round 14 of the A-League at Telstra Dome last night.
Victory was without skipper Kevin Muscat, and regular defenders Daniel Piorkowski and Simon Storey and their places were taken by Mark Byrnes, Steve Pantelidis and Adrian Caceres.
In virtually the first attack, a long ball forward by Rodrigo Vargas was brilliantly trapped on his chest by Daniel Allsopp,who spun off his marker but then cannoned into young Jets keeper Ben Kennedy.
Kennedy had to be taken off with what looked like a bad injury to his arm.
Ivan Necevski replaced him after only 7 minutes.
Both sides had free kicks in dangerous positions but neither was able to capitalise.
Newcastle’s Joel Griffiths exploited a big gap on the right side and chipped the ball neatly over Victory keeper Eugene Galekovich but the final effort just drifted wide of the far post.
Socceroo Griffiths was getting far too much freedom and he had another close range effort and one from distance but luckily for Victory both went past the post.
Caceres, returning after injury, looked out of sorts and he was replaced after half an hour by Brazilian Alessandro, who is a real favourite with the Victory fans.
Melbourne had a couple of clear chances in the last minutes of the first half.
Brazilian Fred set up Archie Thomson who fired a cross-shot just wide, then Alessandro skinned Jade North and ran clear on goal only to give keeper Necevski an opportunity to smother his close range shot.
Though the Jets often looked dangerous, Victory had the better opportunities in front of goal but half-time came with neither side able to break through.
The twin Brazilians produced some moments of pure magic in the second half to set up more opportunities but it was the Jets who took the lead on the hour against the run of play.
Socceroo Nick Carle threaded a reverse pass through the home defence and Milton Rodriguez beat Galekovic on his near post.
Victory replaced Kristian Sarkies with new signing James Robinson and Victory went chasing a goal.
But the Jets were becoming more adept at hitting on the break and Nick Carle struck the cross bar with the keeper beaten, then Griffiths forced Galekovic into a superb diving save.
Not to be outdone, Grant Brebner hit the base of the post as Victory tried to salvage something from the game.
The Jets won the majority of the fifty-fifty balls around the ground and coach Ernie Merrick took off Adrian Leijer, replacing the Geelong defender, with midfielder Michael Ferrante.
Before the match, coach Merrick was talking about revising his team’s goals and now seeking to win the league not just qualify for the finals, but this result shows that there is much work still to be done.
After the match Merrick said that substitute keeper Ivan Necevski was the man-of-the-match. ‘We had three one-on-ones with the keeper and failed to score with any of them. We played well in the first half, but we showed a lack of fight after the goal. I am not worried about the defence. We have the meanest defence in the league. We are aiming to win the Minor Premiership. I took off Leijer for tactical reasons. I would rather lose by 5-nil by trying to win the game,’ the coach said.
Gary van Egmond, the Jets coach, said that Kennedy would have an X-ray on his collar bone and his arm. He said the key to the Jets doing well in the remainder of the season was consistency and the need to remain injury free.
The crowd was 27,753, raising the season’s average attendance at home games to 26, 272 after 14 rounds.
Victory’s Blue and White Brigade superimposed a tribute on their banner in memory of Hungarian legend, Ferenc Puskas, who died this month. A small group of Newcastle fans had made the trip south and kept their end up well. Later they were dwarfed by Victory fans at the far end of the ground.