Late Goal Secures Grand Final Berth For Jets
Taylor Regan looks ecstatic after scoring a game winning goal
The Newcastle Jets have pulled off a characteristic, gutsy 1-0 win over league winners Wellington Phoenix to book a place in the Hyundai A-League Grand Final. This will be the Jets first Grand Final appearance since 2008, and the first under rookie manager Sean-Paul Lodovico who is in just his first season as manager.
Before the match, the Jets made the 9 hour flight to Wellington, capital of New Zealand. The match was to be played at Wellington Regional Stadium, and a total of 18,866 packed the stands to see it, far more than the usual turnout. The atmosphere was great and it was a perfect setting for a knockout match. The stage was set. It was time to play football.
The teams lined up on their respective halves. The Wellington Phoenix were missing star striker Stein Huseygems, and young Hamish Watson was tasked with replacing him. Behind Watson and false nine Roy Krishna however, the threat of Carlos Hernandez still remained. Meanwhile, the Jets played a virtually unchanged line-up from their penalty win over the Heart. Kick-off was rough and tumble as Wellington Phoenix players deliberately targeted young Jets winger Alex Henshall. But after the initial few seconds, fluid football was already being played.
The first half showed promise, but no-one was able to break the goal barrier. From the kick-off, the Phoenix showed some great football but in the 14th minute, a wonderful throughball by Andrew Hoole broke the Wellington line and found it's way to Heskey who was through on goal. It looked a simple shot from his position, but Glen Moss managed to deflect it wide it would should have been a goal for the Jets.
In the 19th minute, the Phoenix very nearly drew first blood. A one-two pass between Hernandez and Watson culminated in Roy Krishna getting far too much space. Luckily, a diving Mark Birighitti save put it out for a corner and the Jets were warned of Hernandez's creative influence.
9 minutes later, another Jets through-ball threatened to topple the Phoenix. This time, Heskey held up the ball in the centre of the park and saw both Andrew Hoole and Jacob Pepper streaming into the box. Heskey threaded the ball through to Pepper but his thunderous shot was again saved by Glen Moss.
The see-saw battle continued, and in the 31st minute, Wellington had probably the best chance of all. Quickly playing the ball out of defence, Michael Boxall saw an opportunity and lifted it over the head of Jets defender Taylor Regan. Hamish Watson found himself with acres of space, but the youngster failed to deliver and put it far wide of the post, potentially costing the Phoenix the game.
But the biggest chance of the half came in the 43rd minute, just before half time. Wellington's Reece Caira crossed the ball and yet again Roy Krishna found too much space in the box. He volleyed the ball, sending Birighitti to the right but placing his shot left. Unfortunately, his shot was too far left and clipped the post and went wide.
It had been an action packed first half, with multiple missed opportunities. But the score was still at 0-0, and the match was anyone's to win. Let's have a look at the second half.
After a tremendous first half showing, the second half paled in comparison. Both teams seemed to try and defend eachother into submission after being found out in the first half. The crowd were getting restless and as the subs were made and the game ticked into its dying stages, the teams suddenly cranked up the pressure again and as a result, a goal occured.
In the 86th minute, a cross from Andrew Hoole deflected harmlessly for a corner, and the customary taker for the Jets, David Carney, stepped up to take it. His left foot struck the ball and looked to land in the top left corner of the penalty box. Centre back Taylor Regan ran across and flicked the ball towards goal. Glen Moss was too far to the right to reach it, and the ball sailed into the net. The stalemate was broken, the Phoenix's morale was broken, and they failed to impact in the final 6 minutes. Regan's goal had given the Jets a berth in the Grand Final.
After a first half flurry of action followed by a defensive second half, the match was eventually decided by a dead ball situation. The Jets simply played their usual game, attempting to attack early then sitting back and defending. It worked a gem, and the Carney-Regan corner goal occured again to put them through. The unlucky Phoenix bow out after winning the league, and will look back on this moment in regret, especially due to the chances they missed. Here's some post match comments by the players and managers.
It just feels so special to be able to say, after the season we've had, that we're in the grand final. What a special effort from the boys.
Scoring a goal in that kind of situation is simply surreal. Me and David [Carney] have got some kind of telekinetic thing going I swear- we just link up so well for corners. Onwards and upwards, as they say, now to win the Grand Final!
Full credit to the Jets, they played magnificently today and deserve all the plaudits. But I can't describe my frustration at my mob. You simply cannot cough chances up like they did and I think some serious work needs to be done on the pitch.
Sometimes you play good football as a team, but you don't do well. We made so many top, top chances, and couldn't score. That's just football.
Now the Newcastle Jets will eagerly anticipate the other semi final match between Sydney FC and Adelaide United tomorrow which will decide their competitor in the final. The stage is almost set. One team remains. Join us next time to see who will be Newcastle's competitor in the A-League Grand Final.