Sunday, February 17, 2008

Jets soar as the v3 finals continue to roar

A-League v3 preliminarly final, NJ 3 v QR 2

CAN the A-League v3 finals get any better?

Another night on the East coast and another extra-time thriller, this time the Newcastle Jets finishing on the right end of 3-2 scoreline in front of their own fans, finally beating the Roar at home and shaking off the disappointment not only of last week, but last season's exit at the same stage.

Last week they let slip a 2-0 first leg lead to end up 3-2 aggregate losers to the Central Coast Mariners. Tonight they were finally able to put away the Queensland Roar, but only after surviving a controversial injury time equaliser that took the Jets to extra time for the second week on the spin.

Now, into Asia in '09, they meet the premiers and their closest neighbour in the most mouth-watering of F3 derbies, and if the championship decider in neutral Sydney in a week is half as enthralling as what we've witnessed over the past month, it'll be a beaut.

Tonight's game was arguably the best and most even of the lot, played at breathtaking speed, with plenty of open play and goal scoring opportunities.

In truth, the Jets should have sealed the match in normal time, but twice they were denied by some poor officiating. With 10 miniutes left in normal time, up 1-0, the Jets's main man, Joel Griffiths, was through, on side, with only Liam Reddy to beat.

Game, set and match, it seemed.

But up went the offside flag, incorrectly, and the Roar had a lifeline. Into injury time they used it, substitute Simon Lynch adjudged by Peter Green to have have been up-ended by Adam D'Apuzzo. Penalty.

Replays showed it was Lynch doing the pushing. Little wonder the Jets were so ropable.

In a way, they had themselves to blame. More and more in the second period they retreated, defending too deep, allowing the Roar to press on in search of an equaliser.

When it came you could hardly begrudge the Roar, who had earlier in the game peppered Ante Covic's goal, despite conceeding most of the ball.

It was a strange and absorbing opening half. The Jets, with master link-man Stuart Musialik back in the 11 and back to his tempo-setting best, controlled the possession, passed the ball around crisply, yet it was the Roar creating the better chances.

Partly these were on back of some Jets mistakes, partly they were a result of some rapid Roar counter-attacks, with Michael Zullo in particular in a rampant mood down the left.

But what was lacking for the Roar was the finish, the final touch. What's new, I hear you ask.

Zullo, Matt McKay, Marcinho and Robbie Kruse were all guilty, and the Jets soon punished them.

After hiting the post early after a breathtaking bit of footwork in the box, Matt Thompson, pushed into the front third by his ever-thoughtful manager, reacted first as Reddy could only parry a teasing near-post cross from Mark Bridge.

The Jets, taking advantage of some running repairs to Sash Ognenovski on the sideline, had their opener and were in the box seat. In a one-off game, not over two legs, no team has been able to come from behind to beat them this season.

The second period was completely different. The Roar dominated possession, territory, fouls, balls into the box, corners and chances (mainly to Reinaldo from Zullo delivery). It seemed only a matter of time before they would score, but the defensive axis of Andrew Durante, Jade North and Musialik in front of them stood strong.

Seemingly they'd done enough, until Green intervened, incensing the hosts, who argued long and hard about the decisions.

Soon, 13 minutes into extra-time, the referee, perhaps still feeling the Jets complaints echoing in his ears, squared things up. After a wonderful flowing eight-pass build-up by the Jets which saw the ball moved from the left, through the back, via Musialik and into the feet of Griffiths, who found the diagnol run of the fresh Ji-Hyung Song, who copped the slightest touch from Ognenovski. Griffiths bagged his 14th of the season and fourth set-piece goal against the Roar this year.

The the penalty was soft, no doubt, but the Jets had earnt it for at least taking the initiative in the first period of extra time and stringing some lovely passing sequences together. Good to watch.

The Roar looked content to settle for penalties and were punished.

Now they had to come out and play, which left space for the likes of Bridge, Griffiths and Song to exploit, which they did so thrillingly in the 110th minute. A blocked McKay shot fell to Song in midfield, who played a quick one-two with Griffths before pushing it on to Bridge, who turned and found Griffiths to his right. While Bridge had sprinted off to the left, hoping for the return ball, Griffiths saw something on the other side, and in a flash it was 3-1.

Swiftly, with five one and two-touch passes, the ball had been moved from midfield to the right side of attack, where Tarek Elrich, somehow finding reserves of energy, thrashed his shot past Reddy.

Energy Australia went potty. Surely the Jets were in the big one and off to Asia.

There was still time though for more drama and Green was soon pointing to the spot after the goal-scorer was guilty of up-ending Zullo. Reinaldo expertly converted his second penalty, but with the Roar reduced to 10 men after Craig Moore had lost the plot a little earlier, this was the Jets' night.

The Roar had contributed to thrilling night but had been found a little short in the final third. The fact both their goals came from the spot despite numerous chances told of their fall-down, a lack of composure in the final third.

The Jets meanwhile proved they can muscle-up and still play some flowing football, and, in a one-off game, have every chance in next week's grand final. If they can compete physically with the Mariners, they have the better football in them, and can realistically expect to compete.

Their physical and technical work in this game will give them plenty of confidence and the fact all their players survived the 'second-yellow' disaster will further hearten them.

Plenty to look forward to, and the hope is that while both teams will be travelling south along the F3 for the grand final, hopefully next week's climax continues to take the v3 finals upwards.


Blogger druryfire said...

Excellent game, a joy to watch all the way here in the UK, most certainly be up for next Sundays Grand Final.

Mon. Feb. 18, 12:04:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strange that you seemed not to have mentioned the penalty that wasn't given on Moore in the first have when he almost had his shirt ripped from him as he was pulled down in the box.

One thing I can't seem to work out is all this hype about Newcastle. They are a very boring team and while playing at home were completely outplayed. I guess it must be the love affair with all things dutch and since the jets have a coach with a dutch name they must be considered a top team. Looking at reality, they scored when the Roar were down to ten men, then they were given a dubious (to say the least) penalty. While Griffiths wasn't offside for the disallowed goal, the goal scorer was in an offside position when he joined they play.

Please, take a look at the game without your rose coloured glasses on. I'm a senior licenced coach and always watch a game as a coach.

Did queensland deserve to win? By wasting all those chances they created (5 times that of the jets) they i will say no. Did they deserve to lose and were they the second best team on the park. Same answer - no. But based on how they completely dominated the jets and the game, and provided an entertaining style, they more then deserve to play in the showcase event of the season.

I guess it can be said that FFA got their 'dream final' of all NSW teams since their beloved Sydney FC were kicked out early.

Mon. Feb. 18, 09:24:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The roar are a dutch backed team so dont think it was the "the love affair with all things dutch".

In terms of chances/penalties/disallowed goals, it evened it self out and the best team won.

Mon. Feb. 18, 09:58:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

fair play to the jets. they put the ball into the net twice from open play.

as a roar fan, i hope that frank and the team can come back next year a better team. if they can learn to finish their chances they will be a champion team.

Mon. Feb. 18, 10:34:00 am AEDT  
Blogger pippinu said...

The Jets were certainly the better team and deserve to go through. In fact, they have been far and away the best team of the last two months.

In a one-off game on neutral territory, you'd have to say that the grand final is at least 50/50, but the gauge might be moving slightly in favour of the Jets.

Mon. Feb. 18, 10:38:00 am AEDT  
Blogger Mike Salter said...

Basically the Jets took their chances and Queensland didn't. If I were Lawrie McKinna I wouldn't be too upset watching that game, entertaining though it was, because there were plenty of shaky moments from Newcastle.

And the refereeing...bugger me. All three penalties were ludicrous.

Mon. Feb. 18, 01:10:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Newcastle deserved it, the better side overall. As always enjoyed the detail of your analysis Tony, especially your description of Elrich's goal and especially after I just saw it again on the highlights show.


Mon. Feb. 18, 08:01:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a travelling roar supporter and i thought the better team won on the night we have only ourselves to blame for not putting teams away when the chances come along.As usual the roar was a frustrating team to watch but hopefully if we keep the same squad we will be very hard to beat next year. Had a great time with the orange army and tony i agree with your comments and go newcastle next week i think the bogans will prevail.Look for the orange army on you tube!!!!

Mon. Feb. 18, 08:36:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"i think the bogans will prevail"

That goes without saying!

Wed. Feb. 20, 12:49:00 pm AEDT  

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