Newcastle Jets 0-1 Melbourne Victory
By Kieran Yap (8/2/22)
Above: Melbourne Victory’s Brooke Hendrix celebrates her debut goal to the delight of her new teammates. Photo: A-League Women.
‘Football Frenzy’ started on Tuesday night when Melbourne Victory travelled to play the Newcastle Jets.
Victory’s season would have best been described as interrupted so far with the club having dealt with major injuries, a COVID outbreak, and the departure of key players to the Asian Cup.
However, the team itself has positioned itself very well as the season enters its final third. The reigning champions went into this game sitting in fourth position, having earned 15 points with two games in hand, and ahead of Perth Glory on goal difference. Newcastle are in sixth position, still mathematically able to make the finals but with only nine points from eight matches.
Melbourne was able to field a team that is the closest they have had to a full-strength side since round one. New centre-back Brooke Hendrix started for the first time after a cameo in the last round. Her arrival sent a ripple effect through the team. Amy Jackson returned to her natural midfield role. She anchored the side with her protégée, the impressive Alana Murphy.
This meant that Alex Chidiac had very much a free role and Kyra Cooney-Cross was able to spend most of the time in attack. It was the combination that Victory fans had been waiting almost all season to see.
Newcastle made the curious decision to name a starting eleven with Marie Dølvik on the bench. The side was also missing Tara Andrews and Sunny Franco. The attacking responsibility would fall largely to Sophie Harding.
With 60 games to play in 30 days across the league, expect more teams to rest players under any suspicion of injury.
Victory began on the front foot. Clare Coelho was tested early but equal to everything that Victory threw at her. Catherine Zimmerman ghosted into the six-yard box to volley at goal but the Jets keeper stopped in impressively.
The joy was in the build-up for Victory. Murphy played a terrific lofted pass into the path of Chidiac who’s cross was perfect, the finish was good but Coelho was incredible.
Sophie Harding was the most likely danger for the home side. She robbed Polly Doran of possession but was pulled back in a professional foul before she could accelerate toward goal.
Harding again cut inside the area after a strong run and shot but Casey Dumont saved comfortably.
Other than that, Victory dominated possession and created the most chances of the first half. Zimmerman was lively on the left flank and Cooney-Cross was creative on the right. Although the end product did not match the build-up play.
Victory almost took the lead before halftime when Cooney-Cross and Murphy combined 20 yards from goal. The 16-year-old midfielder struck her shot well and left Coelho rooted to the spot but her shot whistled wide of the post when it seemed destined for the top corner.
The first half ended 0-0 despite the siege being laid to the Jets goal.
The second half started in much the same fashion. Coelho matched her save of the week contender with an athletic effort to stop a Chidiac strike from range. And Maja Markovski missed when it looked easier to score.
As impressive as Newcastle’s defensive effort was, it was always unlikely to hold for the entire game and on the 54th minute, the goal finally came.
Murphy’s free-kick was well struck and curled in perfectly for Brooke Hendrix to head into the bottom corner after losing her marker.
The floodgates never quite opened though, and although Victory continued to create chances, none could be put away.
Although his side was in the lead, Jeff Hopkins never looked happy on the sidelines and paced back and forth. Markovski was withdrawn for Harriet Withers to inject some pace in the game and reverse the momentum swing towards Newcastle.
It seemed a sensible position. As the Jets tired it made sense that a pacey winger might be able to catch them on the break. But as the game wore on Newcastle attacked more, Dølvik’s introduction added the class and confidence that they had been missing upfront to help Harding.
Although Newcastle nearly doubled their shots on goal in the second half, none were able to test Dumont who was calm in the occasional chaos that the Jets were able to cause.
In the dying stages, Melbourne’s players seemed conflicted between going for another goal and running down the clock. Cooney-Cross had another long-range shot swing wide and Zimmerman really should have sealed the result when one-on-one with Coelho in the closing seconds.
In the end, Victory held on for another 1-0 win. Despite the disruptions to the season, they remain in a strong position. Finals are very much in their own control.
Melbourne has been getting results pretty regularly this season. The pattern is strikingly similar to the 2020/21 campaign. A strong start was halted by losses to Melbourne City and then Brisbane Roar before embarking on a run of 1-0 wins.
The versatility of the squad has increased its depth and the emergence of Murphy as a quality A-League level midfielder has been essential to their season so far.
Hendrix was brought in for her experience and position. But adding a goal in her full debut was not something fans expected. Like Claudia Bunge and Kayla Morrison before her, she looks like another clever signing by Hopkins.
Newcastle simply cannot afford to start games without Dølvik, Andrews, or Franco. They welcomed backed Lauren Allan, and the winger can be dangerous in front of goal, but they missed a target. Where Victory had Markovski to hold up the ball and keep possession in attack. Newcastle struggled in that area.
There is quality in the Newcastle squad and they showed it in glimpses, but without any of their proven goal scorers available to start, this was always a big ask.
That was Melbourne Victory’s third win in a row and a third clean sheet in succession.
This round will end with them in fourth position, with a game in hand, and hopefully with more returning players. This side was missing Lia Privitelli and Melina Ayres is still on ice.
The pattern is similar to last season. Might Victory be set to peak at the right time once again?
Teams: NEWCASTLE JETS (4-3-3): Coelho, Jaber, Davis, Fenton, Simon, Brodigan, Gordon, Johnson, Eddy, House, Harding. Substitutes: Allen, Boric (GK), Dølvik, Gooch, King.
MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-3-3): Dumont, Nevin, Hendrix, Bunge, Doran, Chidiac, Jackson, Murphy, Zimmerman, Markovski, Cooney-Cross. Substitutes: Barbieri, Eliadis, Maizels (GK), Withers, Zois.
Scorer: Hendrix 55′.
Referee: Kelly Jones.