Melbourne Victory have snapped their five-game winless streak – and ended their Hunter Stadium hoodoo – after edging out Newcastle Jets 1-0 on Sunday.
A turgid affair was settled by Fahid Ben Khalfallah’s first goal of the season after an excellent counter-attack, set-up by a great run and pass by Kosta Barbarouses.
It was Victory’s first win in Newcastle in more than six years and puts them just a point behind both Melbourne City and Sydney FC who are third and fourth respectively.
But the Jets winless run has now extended to nine matches as they remain eighth.
0-1 Ben Khalfallah (71’) – A swift counter attack from the visitors ended with Barbarouses playing a superb pass through to the Tunisian who finished clinically with his left foot from just inside the box.
In a game of few chances, the first goal was always going to be crucial but the manner in which the Jets conceded it will infuriate coach Scott Miller.
From their own attacking corner, the Jets were hit by a lightning counter-attack, unable to deal with the pace, vision and skill of Barbarouses and Ben Khalfallah.
With the Jets in such a rut when it comes to scoring goals, it was always going to be a bridge to far for them to get something out of the match.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
*The Jets have failed to score in five games now and set a new club record for time without a goal, now standing at 469 minutes.
*The win was Victory’s first in the Hunter since October, 2009 and just their third in 16 games away against the Jets.
*The shutout was Victory’s first clean sheet in their last nine games.
*It’s no surprise there was no fluency to the match, with a total of 33 Fouls over the 90 minutes.
How good is it to see Archie Thompson back in Victory’s starting side. Making his start of the campaign after a recent return from a knee injury, the 37-year-old was among the visitors most threatening players in attack.
He tested Mark Birighitti with an early shot while had a titanic tussle with Jets fullback Jason Hoffman until he was replaced just after the hour mark.
Thompson even got involved in some light-hearted banter with the home fans after an embarrassing slip near the sideline in the first half…all while his trademark smile was beaming.
It’s great for Victory – and the entire Hyundai A-League – to have Archie back!
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
The January transfer window is going to be crucial for the Jets if they are to make a realistic push for the finals.
The balance of their attack simply isn’t right, with Trifunovic seemingly not on the same wavelength with those creative players in behind him.
Miller will need to bring in a few more options in the front third or think about changing the sides approach if the Jets are to score more goals.
THE FINAL WORD
The Jets are bereft of confidence at the moment, not hard to figure out why after nine games without a win. Until they can come up with some fresh ideas and energy in attack, things are unlikely to change. Newcastle next face Sydney FC on Saturday night at ANZ Stadium.
Is Victory back? On this performance you would have to say not yet but it was a crucial three points and perfect way to start 2016. It’s now about building momentum for Kevin Muscat’s side and they will have the chance to do that in Geelong against the Mariner son Friday night.
Newcastle Jets: Birighitti (gk), Hoffman, Boogaard (c), Mullen, Cowburn, Poljak, Watson, Kantarovski, Alivodic, Kitto (Crowley 66’), Trifunovic (Pavicevic 78’)
Melbourne Victory: Vukovic (gk), Geria, Deng, Delpierre, Georgievski, Broxham (c), Bozanic, Barbarouses, Ben Khalfallah (Mahazi 78’), Thompson (Pain 67’), Berisha (Makarounas 90’)
Scorers: Ben Khalfallah 71’
Red cards: Nil
Yellow cards: Watson 16’, Ben Khalfallah 21’, Hoffman 33’, Berisha 35’, Deng 55’, Bozanic 77’, Boogaard 83’
Conditions: 24C, Overcastcomments