Melbourne City and Newcastle Jets have fought out an entertaining 2-2 draw in and end to end contest at AAMI Park on Thursday night.
The Jets wasted little time in striking, going ahead after just three minutes off Nikolai Topor-Stanley’s head. Patricio Rodriguez found enough space to flight in a pinpoint ball which the veteran dispatched.
Jack Duncan denied Michael Jakobsen’s bullet header at the other end 25 minutes later, and City thought they were level scarcely moments later through Harrison Delbridge. However, Kurt Ams chalked off the goal for a foul and VAR confirmed that decision.
City did strike back on 42 minutes though after Daniel Georgievski brought down Stefan Mauk in the penalty area. With a great deal of confidence, Daniel Arzani stepped up and coolly converted the spot kick.
The crossbar had its fair share of rattles, struck twice by Scott Jamieson from a free kick and then Luke Brattan.
But Newcastle came up the goods in the end. Riley McGree unlocked City with some excellent trickery, playing in Andrew Nabbout who forced Dean Bouzanis down low. Jason Hoffman was on hand to knock home the rebound for 2-1.
Duncan however was culpable for City’s second equaliser, losing the flight of the ball to allow Dario Vidosic to nod home Brattan’s delivery.
The draw means Newcastle remain four points ahead of City and keeps their destiny in their own hands.
Welcome back, Riley McGree
McGree rolled the dice a year ago after bursting onto the scene with Adelaide United, making the dream move to Europe with Belgian side Club Brugge aged just 18. That move has not worked out for the fringe Socceroo just yet, with no senior appearances for Brugge to his name.
He returned home to Australia with Newcastle on loan in a shrewd move to build more match minutes and continue his meteoric rise. It seems a perfect fit; Jets coach Ernie Merrick described the youngster as “my type of player”.
The Scotsman called on McGree with 61 minutes gone, and he had the desired impact only nine minutes later. He mazed his way through City’s midfield and slid in Nabbout, whose attempt on goal was eventually put away by Hoffman.
Seeing McGree back in action was a wonderful sight for not just Newcastle fans but Australian football fans on the whole.
With the Socceroos’ imminent future far clearer following Bert van Marwijk’s appointment to the top job, McGree will have hopes of impressing him and earning the first senior cap he was never quite able to achieve when Ange Postecoglou called on him.
Arzani in the thick of it again
City’s own youngster has been the talk of the footballing nation for the best part of a month, capturing hearts and minds with a series of excellent performances. After creating City’s two goals against Perth Glory on 9 January, Arzani told the media he was hopeful of taking the next step and adding more goals to his game.
At the heart of the action again on Thursday, the 19-year-old got his first A-League goal, stepping up to convert City’s opener. You have to admire the confidence of the kid.
Ross McCormack was not on the field at the time to assume spot kick responsibilities, but Arzani was unwavering his decision to step up. He converted with aplomb, finding the bottom corner and even holding his nerve enough to stutter his runup.
After City’s 5-0 thrashing of Adelaide United, Warren Joyce revealed the player’s “bad habits”. As impressive as Arzani is, he still does have plenty to learn. Such has been his form that it is easy to forget his age.
He was partly at fault for the Jets’ third-minute strike, losing Rodriguez in the leadup and ultimately affording him the time and space to pick out a target. But with time on his side and the disciplinary Joyce at the helm, City fans need not worry.
The end of the boss?
In Joyce’s prematch press conference, the Englishman hinted this could be McCormack’s City swansong, with his future clouded and out of City’s hands.
The on-loan Aston Villa striker has more than delivered in City colours, scoring 14 goals in 16 games.
And it could have been one more at the death had it not been more a miraculous goal-line clearance by Newcastle’s unsung hero Steven Ugarkovic.
Dollars and cents too provide a major stumbling block in the club’s quest to keep McCormack, and it would be a shame to see him depart.