VICTORY FOR THE VICTORY
IN THE end the fairytale was a step too far for the Newcastle Jets, who fell to Melbourne Victory at the final hurdle.
Despite a record crowd of 29,410 at McDonald Jones Stadium urging their team on, the Jets simply couldn’t overcome the experienced Victory side, eventually losing the grand final 1-0 after Kosta Barbarouses’s controversial first-half goal proved decisive.
It was almost the perfect story; last season’s woodenspooners with a chance to claim the title just 12 months later, but the dream was spoiled by Kevin Muscat’s Victory.
That’s not to take anything away from the visitors, who have become the A-League’s most successful team by claiming their fourth championship.
The Jets, led by Ernie Merrick, can be proud of their season and there wouldn’t have been a single Novocastrian leaving the stadium who didn’t acknowledge that fact. It was a proud night in the Hunter and the buzz it created in the region will leave a lasting legacy.
Unfortunately it ended in ugly scenes, with Roy O’Donovan sent off for a hideously high boot on Lawrence Thomas. Indeed it was the Jets against Thomas for much of the game.
The home side created the better opportunities in the first half, with Ronny Vargas and Dimi Petratos in particular showing the type of form that has defined the Jets all season.
Led and inspired by Thomas, the Victory’s defence was impenetrable.
But they wouldn’t have gone into the break without a touch of fortune, and it came through the VAR. In the ninth minute Barbarouses gave the visitors the lead, via a deflection off John Koutroumbis, after a Leroy George free kick was headed down to him by James Donachie. Donachie was clearly in an offside position, but the goal stood despite the VAR’s intervention.
It was a clear and obvious error, so the decision was a baffling one.
There was time in the first half for the Jets to get back in the game, but with the Victory sitting so deep it was tough for the home side.
There was a slight drop in pace from Victory in the second half, but they made up for it with experience, by thoroughly closing down and nullifying the Jets.
Melbourne Victory’s Kosta Barbarouses scores past Newcastle goalkeeper Glen Moss in the A-League grand final at Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium last night