Melbourne Victory 2 Newcastle Jets 1
By Roy Hay
Melbourne Victory pulled off a last-minute win over a very competitive Newcastle Jets at AAMI Park on Monday night by two goals to one in front of a healthy crowd of 16,378.
Ricardinho scored the winner from two metres out, while Carlos Hernandez got the first from 35 metres, and Ruben Zadkovic interspersed these two with a volley of his own from distance.
There was a big cheer before the game when Danny Allsopp appeared once again in Victory colours prior to his transfer back to the club in January after spells in the Middle East and the United States.
Without Archie Thompson, Matthew Kemp, Grant Brebner and Surat Sukha from its strongest line-up, Victory gave starts to Leigh Broxham, Tom Pondeljak and Mate Dugandzic, while Billy Celeski resumed his place in midfield.
Evan Berger, Diogo Ferreira and Ricardinho were the outfield substitutes.
The Jets welcomed back Ljubo Milicevic, Jobe Wheelhouse and Tarek Elrich, but it looks as if Michael Bridges will be very unlikely to play any part in this seasonâ€™s run in to the finals.
It was clear that both sides were up for the game, thanks in part to some media comments from Jetsâ€™ skipper, Ljubo Milicevic who left Victory after only a couple of games in 2007.
The Jets dominated the opening phase but could not manufacture a goal despite some attractive moves.
Victory took the lead in20 minutes with a goal out of nothing, but what a goal!
Carlos Hernandez won the ball in a challenge just inside the centre-circle, then advanced about ten metres before firing a fierce swinging grounder which completely deceived Ben Kennedy and crept inside the right hand post.
There were some pretty agricultural tackles from both sides but Milicevic was the only booking in the first half for taking down Robbie Kruse with a two footed lunge.
Kevin Muscat was probably lucky to escape after a double challenge on Ali Abbas in the 36th minute.
Both Kruse and Hernandez had opportunities from similar distance to the latterâ€™s goal but both efforts went flying well over the bar.
The Jets had lots of possession and their tall defenders outmuscled the Victory attackers most of the time but the closest they came to scoring were a strike by Francis Jeffers and one by Milicevic, both of which were dealt with by Michael Petkovic.
The Jets came back in the second half with a fine goal in 54 minutes when Nikola Topor-Stanley sent a long lob forward and Francis Jeffers knocked it down to Ruben Zadkovic.
The midfielder cracked a volley past Michael Petkovic from 20 metres.
Both sides went all out for a result and the game was wide open with defences at full stretch.
The word from the Victory camp was that the Jets had settled for a draw in the last ten or fifteen minutes, though it looked as if the away team was continuing to threaten on the break.
Branko Culina replaced Ali Abbas with Marcello Fiorentino and then took off goalscorer Zadkovic for Labinot Haliti.
Victory gave Ricardinho a run in place of Mate Dugandzic and these changes were to prove significant.
The winner came as the clock ticked into injury time.
Robbie Kruse got the ball on the edge of the Jets area and dribbled round Tarek Elrich and substitute Fiorentini twice before sliding it across the goal where Victory substitute Ricardinho tapped it over the line.
There was no time for the Jets to react and afterwards coach Culina was bitterly upset about the loss of a critical away point, though he gave full credit to Victory for their performance.
Ernie Merrick thought that the first half passing by Victory was disjointed at times, but switching Tom Pondeljak to the left to assist Marvin Angulo in dealing with the raiding Zadkovic paid dividends. Angulo could press forward and consequently had more influence on the creative side of the Victory game.
Melbourne Victory 2 (Carlos HERNADEZ 20â€™, RICARDINHO 90â€™) Newcastle Jets 1 (Ruben ZADKOVIC 54â€™)
Mon 27 December 2010
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Local kick-off: 6:00pm
Referee: Matthew BREEZE
Assistant referees: James NICOLOPOULOS and Luke BRENNAN
Fourth official: Kevin DOCHERTY
Melbourne Victory: 1.Michael PETKOVIC, 2. Kevin MUSCAT, 3. Mate DUGANDZIC (9. RICARDINHO 76â€™), 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 11.Marvin ANGULO (13. Diogo FERREIRA 80â€™), 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 14. Billy CELESKI, 15. Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ (19. Evan BERGER 91â€™), 21. Robbie KRUSE, 23. Adrian LEIJER.
Unused substitute: 20. Sebastian MATTEI
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil
Newcastle Jets: 1. Ben KENNEDY, 3. Adam Dâ€™APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR STANLEY, 5. Ljubo MILICEVIC, 7. Kasey WEHRMAN, 10. Ruben ZADKOVICH (14. Labinot HALITI 89â€™), 11. Tarek ELRICH, 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE, 18. Marko JESIC, 19. Ali ABBAS (17. Marcello FIORENTINI 76â€™) 24. Francis JEFFERS
Unused substitutes: 13. Sasho PETROVSKI, 50 Jack DUNCAN
Yellow card: Ljubo MILICEVIC 21â€™
Red cards: Nil