Haliti makes his point with late strike

The Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Victory have played out a 1-all draw at Etihad Stadium this evening.

The Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Victory have played out a 1-all draw at Etihad Stadium this evening.

A late strike by Labinot Haliti on his return to the Hyundai A-League cancelled out a first half goal by Victory striker Archie Thompson. The Kosovo-born Haliti nodded home powerfully from close range after a superb dribble and cross by livewire right back Tarek Elrich.

It was the home side that would have the better of the first half though, as the Victory controlled the midfield and pressured the Jets into mistakes as they attempted to play the ball out from the back.

Clear cut chances were few and far between for both sides throughout the opening stanza, but Thompson made the most of a Leigh Broxham set-piece when he netted with a glancing header in the 42nd minute. It was the Melbourne marksman-s third goal in as many weeks and gave the Victory a deserved first half lead.

Head Coach Branko Culina then changed things around after halftime, opting for a 4-3-3 formation in order to give his team further impetus in the final third.

The move paid dividends, with the visitors able to push forward in greater numbers, exemplified by Chris Triantis- dribble and drive five minutes after the break. The young midfielder picked the ball up on the right touchline and made a swift move toward the Victory goal before firing wide from 25 yards.

The Jets grew in confidence as the half wore on, and Qantas Young Socceroos striker Jason Hoffman almost brought the scores level when he got on the end of some beautiful lead-up work by creative midfielders Jin-Hyung Song and Kaz Patafta. Hoffman-s snap-shot from just inside the area was well tipped over the bar by Victory custodian Glen Moss.

Haliti and Dutch striker Donny de Groot then entered the fray as Culina reverted back to a 4-4-2 formation, with the eventual goalscorer playing in behind the frontmen.

With time winding down, and a loss seemingly inevitable, Newcastle showed great character to claw a goal back in the 87th minute. Elrich toyed with defender Matthew Kemp before showing explosive pace to get to the byline to deliver a pin-point cross which was duly dispatched by the head of Haliti. The 23-year-old attacking midfielder only received his clearance from the PZPN (Polish Football Association) earlier this afternoon, and celebrated his goal in the same manner as the screamer he scored against the New Zealand Knights back in round 18 of the Hyundai A-League 2005/06 season.

After the game, Culina was realistic about his side-s overall performance, and acknowledged the amount of time it took the team to get into the contest.

“We weren-t in it in the first half,” Culina explained. “But we can-t be too disappointed, you-ve got to be honest, we didn-t play well particularly in that first half and we only played well in patches in the second half.”

“We adjusted things at halftime first, and then about fifteen minutes into the second half we decided we needed to change again.”

“All-in-all though I can-t be too disappointed, although a win was there for the taking, Melbourne didn-t really play as well as maybe they are capable, or maybe the way they would like to,” he said.

The Jets will return to Newcastle tomorrow where they will begin preparations for next weekend-s Hyundai A-League round 6 clash at home to the Brisbane Roar. Tickets for this EnergyAustralia Stadium encounter are available from www.proticket.com.au or by calling (02) 4915 2345.

Match Details:

Melbourne Victory: 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 5.Surat SUKHA (17.Matthew FOSCHINI 76-), 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Matthew KEMP, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS (c), 14.Billy CELESKI (8.Grant BREBNER 5-), 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 22.Nick WARD, 23.Adrian LEIJER
Unused substitutes: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 11. Nathan ELASI
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil

Newcastle Jets: 1. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY 5. Ljubo MILICEVIC, 7. Jin-Hyung SONG, 8. Matt THOMPSON (c), 11. Tarek ELRICH, 15. Sean ROONEY, 16. Jason HOFFMAN (10. Donny DE GROOT 64-), 22. Kaz PATAFTA, 24. Chris TRIANTIS (25. Labinot HALITI 64-)
Unused substitutes: 20. Neil YOUNG (gk), 2. Angelo COSTANZO
Yellow cards: Labinot Haliti 87-
Red cards: Nil

Melbourne Victory: 1 (Thompson 42-)
Newcastle Jets: 1 (Haliti 87-)
Referee: Chris BEATH
Crowd: 15,168