At their absolute best, the Newcastle Jets can match it with any side in the A-League Men’s (ALM) competition.
Rob Stanton’s lads proved that when they knocked over ladder leaders Wellington Phoenix earlier in the season and, on Saturday evening, they drew 1-all with the second-placed Melbourne Victory at McDonald Jones Stadium.
It was a brilliant display against a team, which has yet to taste defeat in 2023/24.
But, in fairness, Newcastle could have picked up all three points, had star striker Apostolos Stamatelopoulos converted a penalty in the first half.
Melbourne’s Damien Da Silva hand-balled, giving the hosts a perfect opportunity to score.
However, Stamatelopoulos failed with the attempt, sending it straight to goalie Paul Izzo.
More drama unfolded when referee Jonathon Barreiro and the VAR ruled the keeper stepped off the line.
Stamatelopoulos strode up to the spot again but, unbelievably, fired it directly at Izzo for the second time in as many minutes.
Thankfully, he went from villain to hero when he netted the equaliser in the dying stages of the exciting showdown.
Despite beginning slowly, the Jets almost struck the opening blow in the 19th minute when Mark Natta’s header went wide following a brilliant Lucas Mauragis corner.
Newcastle’s No. 1 Ryan Scott was then called into action, making back-to-back brilliant saves.
But, the Victory took a 1-0 lead after Jake Brimmer found Roderick Miranda’s head, with the ball managing to slip past the outstretched hands of the Jets custodian.
That failed to dampen Newcastle’s spirits.
Daniel Wilmering’s left-footed shot from the centre of the box narrowly missed the mark.
Melbourne danger man Daniel Arzani also went close in the 40th minute, with the visitors heading to sheds just one goal to the good.
Whatever Stanton said to his players at the break worked.
Within the blink of an eye, replacements Clayton Taylor and Thomas Aquilina caused numerous headaches.
The pair, along with Stamatelopoulos, Mauragis and Dane Ingham, kept Izzo quite busy.
At one stage, the Jets boasted six shots on goal to the Victory’s nil.
With Melbourne nearing closer to a triumph, Newcastle pushed ahead.
In the 88th minute, Mauragis sent a sensational pass to Stamatelopoulos, who did the rest to make it 1-all.
The Victory failed to lay down, though, with Chris Ikonomidis hitting the crossbar in stoppage time.
In the end, the Jets hung on to remain in the race for the top six.
For more sports stories:
- NRL: Knights already celebrating major milestone in 2024
- ALM: The best of Archie still to come
- Sprint sensation Torrie Lewis set for next challenge
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