Newcastle Jets have defeated Perth Glory 2-1 at McDonald Jones Stadium.
It was a surprise home opener for the Newcastle Jets after La Niña ruined their highly anticipated F3 derby. A revitalised Perth Glory travelled to the Hunter with vengeance on their mind.
The slow start was dominated by the home side. Up to the 15-minute mark, Jets held a notable majority of possession, eyeing incisive channels as fullbacks Carl Jenkinson and new signing James McGarry overloaded the attack in the final third.
McGarry produced the first attempt at goal after eight minutes. Positioned squared to the middle of the goal at the top of the box, his powerful effort strayed wide, leaving Liam Reddy flat-footed.
A couple of long range efforts from Mustafa Amini were overshadowed shortly after by his opposing captain Brandon O’Neill. Collecting a loose ball on the edge of the area, O’Neill hit the ball first time and the shot along the grass just whistled past the outside of the post.
Complacency from Jordan Elsey in the 26th minute allowed Israeli import Ben Azubel to turn the careless defender and hit a curling strike towards the top left corner and unfortunately for Glory, it cannoned into the upright.
A continued lack of intensity from the Jets defence admitted Perth to increase their earnestness when pressuring from the attack lead by Bruno Fornaroli and more threateningly Azubel.
After another period of Jets possession, Perth Glory conceived the majority of the first half’s ominous chances.
A hefty head collision between Giordano Colli and O’Neill towards the end of the first 45 saw the midfielders bandaged, noting the rising emotions brewing between the two sides. A challenge from O’Neill on Ryan Williams mere seconds after set the tone for the rest of the game.
The second half started very similar to the first, lowlighted by limited opportunities. But the healthy challenges and potty mouths gave referee Daniel Elder a good reason to introduce the first two cards of the match. Elsey was gifted the cheese for a challenge on Khelifi, while Amini’s antics in the aftermath served him a yellow on a silver platter.
But the aforementioned Elsey would find the opener for the Jets. Set-piece cover man McGarry collected the cleared ball from a corner, playing it straight to Jenkinson who hit a pearler of a cross to Elsey. The centre-back rose above the opposing white shirts and perfectly placed his header into the near corner.
But the hero for Jets soon transitioned into an undesired villian.
Assuming he was clear of opponents, Elsey went to control the loose ball with a high foot but connected with the oncoming Salim Khelifi’s head. Originally given a second yellow and free-kick inches outside the 18-yard box, a VAR review overturned both decisions.
A sizeable break in play resulted in the referee heading over to the VAR booth. As Elder made his way back, the waived yellow card was met with a positive roar from the crowd, but as the red card was once again shown, Elsey was shown the door, possibly resulting in a two-week suspension.
The free-kick was also overturned with Elder pointing to the penalty spot.
With penalty specialist Bruno Fornaroli subbed-off earlier, it was up to super-sub Aaron McEneff to put away the equaliser, and he did so, beating Michael Weier by putting it out of reach of his fingertips.
Perth, with the numerical advantage, begun to yank the reins of the game, flipping the script and providing what the home side did in the first.
A five-minute stoppage time had the home fans clutching at straws, hoping for just one successful break; and did Newcastle supply.
Jaushua Sotirio, off the bench, used his pace to make strides into Perth’s third. Having Beka Mikeltadze screaming for the ball, Sotirio waved away the first opportunity at the pass, cut in, and eventually played the incisive ball to his No.9.
As calm as you like, Mikeltadze took an advantageous first touch, picked his spot, and finished at the far stick with evident emphasis.
The match ended with the Jets taking their first season-opening win since the 2017-18 A-League campaign, the year they finished second behind Sydney FC and the unforgettable home Grand Final against Melbourne Victory.
Piscopo not the promised Penha replacement
There was a prominent absence of chance creation within the Jets squad. Daniel Penha leaving for South Korean side Daegu FC forced Papas to find a replacement of some sort, whether be a straight swap or tactical re-configuration.
For many fans, Rene Piscopo was the answer, starring for Wellington Phoenix the past couple seasons and most recently in the A-League All Stars game.
The Inter Milan youth product was tame against Perth, however.
Piscopo only completed one successful cross and one long ball, along with a spectacular zero shots on target and zero successful dribble attempts.
It is still early days, but Piscopo needs to improve, if it truly is his role to replace Penha in any regard.
A passing of the mantle for Perth?
Fornaroli was kept to a whimper throughout the fixture, being closed down every possession, but thankfully for Glory, new signing Ben Azubel showed unexpected class.
Hailing from the Israeli second division, Azubel was the main attacking outlet for the away side. Azubel came closest to a goal in the first half, turning Elsey inside out and cracking a curler onto the crossbar. The Uruguayan, on the other hand, was not his standard dangerous-self.
Fornaroli’s spot still looks stable as Perth will set up with a front two for most of the season and due to minimal striker options at the Western Australia club. But the now-naturalised Australian might have a shootout on his hands.
Hero to almost villain for ‘The Emu‘
It was an eventful game for Jordan Elsey.
The centre-back, who recently announced the birth of his newborn child, had his checklist out. After almost allowing the the first goal in due to a lack of pressure and magnetism in defence, his pen was subject to a good workout of ticks and crosses during the second stanza.
A yellow card opened his account just before a well-directed header put the Jets two-to-the-good, nailing his sixth career goal and sixth emu celebration.
But just 12 minutes later, Elsey was shown red after a second yellow due to a high-boot call from the referee, which was overturned to a straight red after a VAR call.
Elsey will now miss potentially two weeks due to the straight red, leaving an almost certain back two of Mark Natta and Matthew Jurman for the Jets.
Newcastle Jets 2 (Elsey 59′, Mikeltadze 93′)
Perth Glory 1 (McEneff 73′)
Attendance: 7,089 at McDonald Jones Stadium.