An under-par pitch, affected by motocross over the FIFA World Cup break, gave way to a below-average game at best between Newcastle Jets and Brisbane Roar.
Strong winds and a soft, sloppy pitch are the only excuses for a second-rate football performance by both Newcastle Jets and Brisbane Roar.
Newcastle Jets opened the game in a dominating manner, completing 40 passes within the first two and a half minutes, resulting in the game’s first shot.
Beka Mikeltadze found himself in an acute angle toward goal inside Brisbane Roar’s 18-yard box, handing a perfect opportunity for a cutback to Angus Thurgate. The young midfielder hit the ball towards the goal but struck the inside of the crossbar, and the ball rebounded back into play.
Early domination from Newcastle would quickly dwindle, with Brisbane Roar gifted three corners before the 10th-minute mark. Roar could only produce anything of note after the game settled into an even flow.
Attention swayed from the on-field football during the 20th minute after the first protest and walkout occurred, with Terrace Novocastria holding up a “FANS>$$” banner and shortly after walking out of the stadium, or onto the camera side of the pitch, in protest to the recent announcement by the APL to hold the grand final at a Sydney venue for the next three years.
But football continued on the pitch as per usual. Jets winger Trent Buhagiar forced the referee to show the match’s first yellow due to a clumsy challenge on Carlo Armiento.
Brisbane Roar displayed their danger from set pieces and crosses throughout the first half, attempting 14 crosses, half of which from Armiento, and one resulting in a header on target by soon-to-depart Charlie Austin.
Newcastle Jets were given the final chance of the first half. Still, they overcomplicated a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, resulting in nothing.
Despite having the disadvantage of playing against the wind in the second half, Brisbane Roar controlled momentum. Jack Duncan was forced to make a couple of reflex saves as the Jets gave away countless unnecessary fouls.
A 20-minute stint of uneventful play passed before Newcastle Jets were the first to call upon the bench. Substitute Jaushua Sotirio was called upon in hopes of injecting some added flair into the attack.
Charlie Austin’s substitution, which completed his incredibly brief and insufficient stint in the A-League, was overshadowed soon after by Jason Hoffman.
The Jets loyalist broke the record for most competitive appearances by a Newcastle Jets player, earning his 211th cap for the club.
But Austin’s absence seemingly aided Roar into scoring only their sixth goal of the season. Against Hoffman himself, Riku Danzaki won a header from Rahmat Akbari’s cross, nodding it onto Nikola Mileusnic for a bicycle kick. The spectacular attempt from 10 yards out deflected off Jack Duncan’s feet for the Roar winger to finish and give his side the lead.
Newcastle was gifted with six minutes of added time at play. Brandon O’Neill received a dangerous free-kick on the edge of the penalty area. Curling it into a hazardous area, Sotirio managed to attain a flick on towards goal but narrowly hit the outside of the post.
A yellow card to Beka Mikeltadze for simulation concluded a tight but below-par game at McDonald Jones Stadium, handing Brisbane Roar a 1-0 victory.
Austin’s final bout
Charlie Austin played his 10th and final match for Brisbane Roar Friday night after deciding to return to England for family reasons.
Austin has been an essential part of Brisbane Roar’s attacking phase for the first seven A-League fixtures, scoring two out of Roar’s five goals before Friday. Roar’s danger has been from crosses and set pieces to utilise Austin’s heading ability and natural poacher instincts. Even in Friday night’s game, Austin was the centrepiece of most attacks before being substituted in the 70th minute.
With Roar’s main attacking outlet off for the game and the rest of the season, the chances of the side scoring goals were reduced on paper. But, merely minutes after the substitution, Mileusnic put away a well-worked goal.
While Roar has lost their star player, it may provide the tactical freedom to give Brisbane Roar and Warren Moon a chance for a re-tweak and finals push.
Record-breaking Jason Hoffman
It was not total doom and gloom for the Newcastle Jets. The silver lining was long-time Jets custodian Jason Hoffman breaking the club record for most competitive appearances, taking over Ben Kantarovski.
Hoffman was introduced in the 75th minute for Carl Jenkinson in right back to close off the game and hope for a last-gasp winner.
While Hoffman contributed to the game’s only goal, it was a milestone match to forget. Hoffman lost a header to Danzaki, a player half a foot shorter, leading to Brisbane Roar’s winner.
First active support protest
Terrace Novocastria kicked off the first of many anticipated protests and walkouts by active supporter groups across the A-League, including City Terrace and Original Melbourne Style, during this weekend’s Melbourne Derby.
Despite the smaller numbers of the Newcastle Jets support, the statement was undeniably felt across the Australian football sphere. Terrace Novocastria’s “FAN>$$” banner went viral on social media. A semi-extensive noting of the protest from the broadcast team gave all watchers of the game notice of the most significant league-fan divide in A-League history.