Jets get off to a flyer

The Newcastle Jets have started their Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season in winning style after defeating Wellington Phoenix 3-2 at EnergyAustralia Stadium this evening.

The Newcastle Jets have started their Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season in winning style after defeating Wellington Phoenix 3-2 at EnergyAustralia Stadium this evening.

It is the first time that the Jets have ever won in the opening round of the competition, and the three points stayed in the Hunter thanks to a first-half brace to Jason Hoffman and a late winner to Jason Naidovski. The talented strikers both recently returned from a tour of Argentina with the Australian Under-20 side and the confidence that they have brought back was evident in their match winning performances.

Hoffman-s first goal of the game came in the 12th minute when he ran onto a delightful Tarek Elrich through ball and calmly lofted his shot over onrushing Phoenix custodian Mark Paston. The goal was Hoffman-s first in Hyundai A-League competition but would not be his last of the thrilling contest.

Ten minutes later Hoffman would seal his brace when some beautiful lead-up work, again by Elrich, left Korean import Jin-Hyung Song free to hit a stinging left-footed drive to Paston-s right. Wellington-s number 1 was only able to parry the shot into the path of Hoffman who slotted home from six yards.

The euphoria inside EnergyAustralia Stadium was short lived, however, as defender Ben Sigmund clawed a goal back for the visitors, powerfully heading home a Leo Bertos free-kick some four minutes later.

There was more drama to come before the break though, with striker Chris Greenacre stunning the Jets- faithful with a venomous strike from inside the area to restore parity. Greenacre-s strike came on the counter-attack thanks to some swift work by the lively Bertos.

Fifteen minutes from time and it appeared certain that the Jets would claim all three points when central defender Ljubo Milicevic made a barnstorming run through the middle of the park and was fed superbly by Italian star Fabio Vignaroli. Milicevic turned neatly on the ball 25 yards out from goal and knocked in an enticing cross for Hoffman to dive onto. However, this time Hoffman-s radar was off as he headed the opportunity agonisingly wide.

Hoffman-s partner in crime, Naidovski, then sent the home fans into raptures when, on 84 minutes, he combined with fellow substitute Sean Rooney to score a dramatic winner. The big striker rose powerfully to meet Rooney-s cross at the back post and nodded home to create history for the Hunter based club.

After the game Jets- Head Coach Branko Culina explained that he was delighted with his side-s victory.

“I was always felt that we were a few weeks away from where we would like to be, but to win first up was very, very pleasing and the credit goes to the players. Some of the football that we played today was very good for a side that is a few weeks underdone,” he said.

More than just being happy to simply claim the three points, Culina was also impressed by the spirit his team displayed as they dug deep to find the winner late in the game.

“We showed enough to get ahead two-nil but the real test was for us to bounce back after Wellington equalised, and it-s a credit to the players.”

“We bounced back and that-s a sign of a decent side, one that can actually go out there and play good football then have to start all over again, as we did when the score was level. It-s a positive, it-s encouraging to see that we have got what it takes to come back as well,” said Culina.

Match Details:

Newcastle Jets: 1. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 2. Angelo COSTANZO, 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 5. Ljubo MILICEVIC, 7. Jin-Hyung SONG, 8. Matt THOMPSON, 9. Sasho PETROVSKI (19. Jason NAIDOVSKI 69-), 11. Tarek ELRICH, 16. Jason HOFFMAN, 17. Fabio VIGNAROLI (15. Sean ROONEY 78-), 24. Chris TRIANTIS (4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY 90+2-)
Unused substitutes: 20. Neil YOUNG (gk)
Yellow cards: Adam D-Apuzzo 20-, Ljubo Milicevic 73-
Red cards: Nil

Wellington Phoenix: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Emmanuel MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCCHEAD, 4. Jon MCKAIN, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL (11. DANIEL 69-), 9. Chris GREENACRE, 13. Troy HEARFIELD (5. DIEGO 78-), 18. Ben SIGMUND, 22. Andrew DURANTE
Unused substitutes: 20. Reece CROWTHER, 10. Michael FERRANTE
Yellow cards: Jon McKain 49-, Tony Locchead 59-
Red cards: Nil

Newcastle Jets: 3 (Hoffman 12-/22-, Naidovski 84-)
Wellington Phoenix: 2 (Sigmund 26-, Greenacre 43-)
Referee: Chris BEATH
Crowd: 6,655