Melbourne Victory have prevailed in the grand final rematch, defeating Newcastle Jets 1-0 in a game of two halves at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday.
It was Newcastle who bossed all of the play in the early stages. The Jets controlled the first half with their energetic pressing, not allowing their Victory opponents any time or space on the ball. But they ultimately failed to capitalise, and Terry Antonis’ strike from distance proved the difference.
Twelve shots to five (all off-target) told the story of the first half, with the Jets looking far more threatening. Their best chance of the half came when Lachlan Jackson played a great cutback to an unmarked Ronald Vargas, 10 yards from goal. Vargas leant slightly back and struck, but the slightest of Lawrence Thomas touches sent the ball onto the bar.
The second half was a seesawing affair with neither side looking too threatening until Victory were finally able to break the deadlock. A Keisuke Honda pass found Antonis just outside the box, where he blasted the ball low to Glenn Moss’s left.
It was Antonis’ second goal in as many weeks and Honda’s assist kept his record of being involved in every Victory goal this season alive.
— Melbourne Victory (@gomvfc) November 3, 2018
Goalscoring woes for the Jets
Roy O’Donovan’s suspension was always going to hurt the Jets but his absence was strongly felt against Victory. The Jets dominated the first half and put some good balls into the penalty area but the finishing touch just could not be found.
The front three of Jair, Jason Hoffman and Vargas again looked threatening. They were often able to tear the Victory defence to pieces, especially early but the finishing touch was not there.
Once Newcastle went behind in the 71st minute, the game was played on the visitors’ terms with the Jets looking a shadow of the team they were in the opening half hour.
Daniel Georgievski was strong in defence and also made efforts to get forward. Vargas also put in a good shift but his early miss which should have put the Jets 1-0 up will haunt him.
Three valuable points for Victory
They never looked likely early in the match but Victory did start to build in the last 10 minutes of the first half. Looking like a completely different team in the second 45, James Troisi put Kosta Barbarouses through on goal and he made no mistake rounding Glenn Moss and putting the ball in the back of the net. Ironically, the offside flag was raised and the deadlock remained.
With Ola Toivonen still sidelined with a calf injury and Kenny Athiu missing with a hamstring problem, Kevin Muscat had no recognised striker to call upon. Even when Barbarouses had his moments – at least early, he grew into the role – Victory still looked toothless in attack. As there is still at least a couple of weeks without a striker, Muscat will need a solution quickly.
Although he finished with an assist, Honda had a endured quiet night and never quite worked his way into the game. Honda and Troisi often got their wires crossed, ending up out of position and showing they are yet to fully gel together.
Muscat will be happy with the three points with a goal that really came from nothing, but will know there is plenty of work still to be done.
From grand finalists to this
The casual non A-League fan tuning in would have been surprised to learn this was a grand final rematch. With the teams sharing just one point between them, the often dull affair was far from a football showcase.
After a stunning run last season, the Jets now sit at the bottom of the table. It is too early in the season for Merrick and co. to panic but things are not getting easier in a hurry, up against reigning premiers Sydney FC next week.
Victory will be delighted with three points away from home in a game in which they easily could have been down a couple goals by half time. This result can now springboard their season with Central Coast Mariners at home the task next week.