Geelong Advertiser, Monday, 17 December 2007, p. 42.
Melbourne Victory effectively surrendered its chance of playing in this year’s final series when it lost by three goals to one to Newcastle Jets in the A-League at Telstra Dome last night.
Victory fielded the same team in two successive matches for the first time this season, and Daniel Allsopp recovered sufficiently from his hamstring strain to take his place on the bench.
New signing Nick Ward from Queens Park Rangers made his debut as a substitute.
The Jets have been Victory’s bogey team recently with two wins and a draw in the last three meetings.
Newly appointed Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek watched the game, his third this week-end, as he ran his eye over potential players for the first World Cup qualifying match against Qatar at Telstra Dome in February.
After an opening flurry by the Jets, Victory got into its stride and took the lead after 12 minutes.
Adrian Caceres found himself clear on the right wing and his low cross was turned in by Carlos Hernandez who nipped in ahead of Jets keeper Ante Covic.
For the Jets, Joel Griffiths got on to the end of a magnificent through ball but youngster Sebastian Ryall robbed him with a well-executed tackle.
Victory was having much more of the play showing neat close quarter skills particularly from another youngster Kaz Patafta, but he, like his team-mates could not find the strikers with accurate passes.
When the ball did get through Archie Thompson and Caceres often turned back away from goal, when it seemed more profitable to keep going forward.
Full back Daniel Vasilevski joined in the attack only to drive his shot into the side net.
The Jets continued to threaten on the break and Matt Thompson got away down the left in 41 minutes.
His cross was knocked back to Brazilian Denni who gave Michael Theoklitos no chance to save his blistering shot.
Victory went in at the break level at one-all and Nick Ward replaced Patafta at half-time.
Nine minutes later the Jets were given a soft free kick about ten metres outside the penalty box and Socceroo Joel Griffiths curled a David Beckham-like free kick into the top corner.
Victory tried to strike back and Hernandez released Thompson who rounded the keeper but Jets’ skipper Jade North cleared on the goal line.
In 76 minutes Griffiths sealed the match when he got clear on the edge of the area, dummied his way round his man and finished clinically.
Verbeek would have noticed this effort by the striker.
The crowd now turned on coach Ernie Merrick as the Victory slumped to its sixth defeat of the season.
Though Victory will represent Australia in the Asian Champions League later this year, only a totally favourable set of results in the remaining four rounds would let it squeak into the A-League finals.
Ernie Merrick said afterwards that Victory had let themselves and the fans down and defender Rodrigo Vargas also apologised to the support for the poor season.
Neither Merrick nor his opposite number Gary van Egmond could quite pin down why the Jets have the wood on the Victory, though van Egmond noted that each time they have played recently there has been a lot riding on this particular result.