Melbourne Victory 4–2 Newcastle Jets
By Kieran Yap.
Melbourne Victory hosted Newcastle Jets at a windy Latrobe City Stadium in Gippsland. Victory needed to win to keep up the pressure on Adelaide in fourth spot above them but The Jets with the in-form Tara Andrews are not a side to be taken lightly.
Victory started aggressively, they moved the ball forward at pace, pressed high up the field and were eager to test Newcastle ‘keeper Nicole Simonsen early and often from long range, looking perhaps to take advantage of the swirly, blustery conditions.
The breakthrough came early, after some tricky wing play by Mindy Barbieri in the 13th minute, Amy Jackson teed up a shot from distance that fell to the feet of Melina Ayres. The Victory striker struck quickly and accurately off her left foot and into the corner, the ball almost crossing the line before the defence had time to react. It was an instinctive strike of great technique that took Simonsen by surprise.
Melbourne kept the pressure up and Catherine Zimmerman was unlucky not to double the lead minutes later after her shot fizzed wide and Barbieri was next to try her luck from long range after Kyra Cooney-Cross created some space with a clever dribble down the centre.
The first half continued to be all Victory, The Jets had trouble clearing the ball or finding any fluency in attack. Cooney-Cross whipped in a free kick that bounced dangerously but wide and Claudia Bunge saw her headed attempt on goal from a corner cleared off the line by some desperate defending.
Newcastle appeared to be doing well to stay in the contest, Lauren Allan tracked back well to stop a mazy run into the box by Lia Privitelli but the corner kicks were coming repeatedly for The Jets to defend and it felt inevitable when one finally resulted in a goal.
Claudia Bunge again got on the end of a corner kick, again it was on target but this time it crossed the line. She stooped down low to meet the ball and connected well, Simonsen reacted quickly enough to reach it, but not cleanly enough to stop it bobbling over for a goal, it was a touch unlucky for Newcastle, but Victory had deserved a second.
Before half time Victory added a third, Catherine Zimmerman who had been a lively nuisance all game collected the ball facing goal and slipped in a well-weighted ball into the path of the overlapping Cooney-Cross. The Victory playmaker, collected it without breaking stride, cruised into the penalty area and after a quick glance to see if a square-pass was on she finished confidently into the far bottom corner off her left foot.
After the break, Newcastle scored early and gave themselves a lifeline, a long ball forward wasn’t dealt with by the Victory defence, and the ball fell to Tara Andrews, she’s been deadly around goal this season and did not hesitate to pull the trigger, smashing the ball past Garton and into the far corner off the left foot. Bunge had done well to contain her up until this point but good strikers only need one half chance and Andrews took hers with deadly efficiency.
Victory substitute Lisa De Vanna set about immediately restoring the three-goal lead, she ran onto a long ball and cut back onto her right foot wonderfully with a back heel move in the box. She shot but was well blocked by some committed defending.
De Vanna again broke free behind the defenders and ran onto a Melina Ayres through ball only to be denied by Simonsen in a one-on-one face off. De Vanna was causing problems with her movement and skill but would have expected to score from that range, Simonsen did very well to narrow the angle and save.
Newcastle heads didn’t drop despite being on the back foot and Rhinanna Pollicina in particular looked determined to impact the game, a great run and pass by Sophie Harding on the left flank found Pollicina in space but her shot from 20 yards was scuffed and did not trouble Garton.
She did not have to wait long for her next opportunity, a long ball from defence found her in a surprisingly amount of space behind the Victory defence but still onside, she spotted Gabby Garton well off her line and coolly lofted the ball over to bring Newcastle to 3-2 and with 15 minutes to play.
Victory responded by going straight on the attack again. De Vanna played in Kyra Cooney-Cross, the young gun strode into the area and shaped to shoot but Hannah Brewer slid in brilliantly to clear the ball. It had to be a perfect tackle, any half-second off and it would have been a penalty and maybe game over.
Newcastle kept trying but Victory had them pinned back again as in the early stages of the game, after a sustained period of pressure Barbieri played the ball wide to Melina Ayres. She had the time and technique to shift inside from the right flank and line up a shot on her rocket of a left foot. The ball flew through a crowded penalty box and nestled into the net to restore the 2 goal cushion and relieve the tension.
The game ended 4-2, Cooney-Cross had a late chance to extend the lead with after racing toward goal and shooting off her right but The Jets were spared a fifth. Victory seem to be clicking, the team has consistency in its line-up and developing it in its performances. They have a skilled, unpredictable and mobile attack and can bring on the all-time leading Matilda’s scorer off the bench when 3-0 up (this feels like a violation of a “Mercy Rule” but I checked and none exists).
Newcastle remain a watchable team. Pollicina was well deserving of her first W-League goal and with Tara Andrews up front they can never be counted out of any game.
It was a thrilling, high scoring game with no broadcast issues, what more could you want from a Sunday evening Dub game?
Teams: MELBOURNE VICTORY: Garton, Doran, Beard, Bunge, Morrison, Jackson, Privitelli, Cooney-Cross, Barbieri, Zimmerman, Ayres. Substitutes: Maizels (GK), Markovski, Martineau, Zois, De Vanna.
Scorers: Ayres 13, 81. Bunge 41. Cooney-Cross 42.
NEWCASTLE JETS: Coelho, Tamplin, Simon, King, Brewer, Bass, Franco, Davis, Pollicina, Allan, Andrews. Substitutes: Simonsen, O’Brien, Petratos, Harding, House.
Scorers: Andrews 48. Pollicina 76.
Referee: Isabella Libri.
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