Sydney FC have kept their Premier’s Plate hopes alive with a thrilling 4-3 win over Newcastle Jets at Hunter Stadium on Friday night.
The Jets opened the scoring midway through the first half thanks to Enver Alivodic before the Sky Blues stunned the hosts with three goals in nine minutes at the start of the second.
Alex Brosque netted either side of a Bernie Ibini strike to give the visitors breathing space before goals to Edson Montano and Andrew Hoole appeared to rescue a point for the hosts.
But with less than 10 minutes remaining substitute Robert Stambolziev popped up to break the Jets’ hearts and ensure the Premier’s Plate race goes down to the final round.
1-0 Alivodic (21’)
Jets striker Edson Montano received the ball with his back to goal just inside the attacking half before playing a deft ball over the top for Alivodic. The Serbian winger took his chance beautifully, opting for a first-time dink from a tight angle over which left the onrushing Vedran Janjetovic with no chance.
1-1 Brosque (49’)
Sydney FC defender Rhyan Grant picked up the ball on the halfway line before splitting the Jets defence with a sublime through ball for Brosque. The Sky Blues skipper showed great composure before calmly slotting the ball past the helpless Ben Kennedy.
1-2 Ibini (51’)
The energetic Ibini produced an incisive solo run before unleashing a thumping strike from distance which was well-saved by Kennedy. Ibini was the first to react and pounced on the rebound, clinically slotting the ball home from close range.
1-3 Brosque (56’)
Teenage defender Alex Gersbach was given too much space down the flank and the left-footer delivered a whipping ball for Brosque to nod home his brace. The skipper stooped down low in front of Jets defender Allan Welsh to bury the ball into the far corner, leaving Kennedy with no chance.
2-3 Montano (67’)
Hoole played a lovely one-two with Enver Alivodic on the edge of area before sliding a ball across the face of goal to Montano. The Ecuadorian controlled the ball before bundling the ball past the despairing Janjetovic.
3-3 Hoole (76’P)
The Sydney-bound winger was felled inside the box as he shaped to shoot and the referee pointed to the spot. The 21-year-old stepped up and sent Janjetovic the wrong way, netting his maiden goal in the A-League
3-4 Stambolziev (80’)
Jets keeper Ben Kennedy failed to collect a cross with Sky Blues striker Shane Smeltz heading the ball across the face of goal. Substitute winger Stambolziev reacted first and slotted the ball home from close range.
WHAT THEY SAID
“It’s definitely very important but we made it tough for ourselves. We were 1-0 down, then went 3-1 up and let them back into the game, so we definitely have to fix that going into the finals.” - Sydney FC’s Bernie Ibini
“It’s very disappointing. To be 1-0 up, cruising I thought in the first half. Then we come out in the second half positive and in the same mind fame but we can’t concede three sloppy goals like that.” - Newcastle Jets’ Andrew Hoole
With the Jets pushing hard for a late equaliser, Alivodic looked likely to pounce on a loose ball inside the Sky Blues area but Vedran Janjetovic showed great athleticism to come out and smother the danger.
Serbian midfielder Milos Dimitrijevic did his Johnny Warren Medal hopes no harm with another assured performance in the middle of the park for the Sky Blues. Just before the interval, the playmaker showed his class with a sublime back-heel through ball which put Brosque in on goal. Unfortunately the skipper wasn’t able to finish past Kennedy, who produced a sharp save.
Heading into the clash Sydney FC had mustered a league-high 280 shots for the season and added to that tally with 15 against the Jets, including eight on target.
Kennedy had a decent game in goal for the hosts but he was culpable for the decisive goal. The Jets custodian was beaten to the ball by Smeltz, with the striker nodding across goal for Stambolziev to prod home.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
The Sky Blues headed into the match with it all to play for but they were out enthused by an energetic Jets outfit in the opening stanza. Graham Arnold’s men created plenty of chances to unlock the hosts’ defence but lacked a killer finish in the final third, with marquee man Marc Janko in particular having an off night.
THE FINAL WORD
The Sky Blues’ Premier’s Plate hope s are still alive and they will eagerly await Melbourne Victory’s result on Saturday night against the Brisbane Roar. Arnold’s men travel to Wellington next week to take on the Phoenix and at the very least will be fighting for a top-two berth.
The Jets will take heart from their improved showing at home and look towards next season with renewed hope. Alivodic was immense for the Jets and he is one Phil Stubbins needs to secure long-term.
Newcastle Jets: Regan, Alivodic, Hoole, Montano, Pepper (Gallagher 79’), Welsh, Cooper (Burgess 45’), Kennedy (gk, C), Mullen, Lee, Cowburn (T Cooper 69’)
Sydney FC: Ryall, Jurman, Dimitrijevic, Ibini, Naumoff (Stambolziev 71’), Brosque (C), Gersbach, Janjetovic (gk), Janko (Smeltz 63’), Grant (Triantis 85’), Faty
Scorers: Alivodic 21’, Brosque 49’, 56, Ibini 51’, Montano 67’, Hoole’ 76’, Stambolziev 80’
Red cards: None
Yellow cards: Hoole 25’, Alivodic 27’, Faty 78’
Conditions: Fine, 20 degrees
Crowd: 8125 @Hunter Stadium