Melbourne City shoot down fearless Jets

Melbourne City 5-1 Newcastle Jets

By Jonathan Tay (10/12/22)

Above: Caitlin Karic (20) celebrates her goal in Melbourne City’s win. Photo: Melbourne City.

Melbourne City beat the Newcastle Jets 5-1 at Casey Fields, to move to the top of the Liberty A-League table in Gameweek Four.

The final scoreline didn’t tell the full chaotic story of a see-sawing game in which the Jets could have had five goals themselves. City made Newcastle pay for a host of squandered chances, the Melbournians overall quality and depth ultimately proving the difference.

City head coach Dario Vidosic went with an unchanged XI for the third time in a row to start the season, persisting with the youthful duo of goalkeeper Sally James and centre back Naomi Chinnama, over veterans Melissa Barbieri and fit-again Emma Checker. Newcastle brought in Ashlee Brodigan in place of Tara Andrews upfront, forming a dangerous trio with Sarah Griffith and Lauren Allan.

Melbourne City had gotten off to a flyer to start their campaign, notching two wins by three-goal margins. Newcastle meanwhile, were also coming off two decent performances, with Griffith’s hattrick helping them to a 4-2 win over Western Sydney in Round Two, followed by a draw with Perth last week, in a match where they probably created the better chances.

The attacking intent from both teams was on display from the off on Saturday afternoon, with each side looking to assert themselves, pressing high to force turnovers, and not holding back their aggression in duels either. The opening five minutes were an emblematic pattern of the whole game: the Jets front three causing turnovers, working their way into prime scoring positions without converting, and then City heading down the other end, and taking advantage of the Jets’ subpar defending.

City struggled to play out from the back for long portions of the match, Chinnama caught out on their very first possession with a heavy touch barely a minute in. The Jets’ Allan was able to nip in and backheel the ball into Brodigan’s path, but her tame shot was straight at James.

Just six minutes in though, City were able to turn the tables and open the scoring, having success of their own in pressuring from the front. A mishit clearance from a throw-in fell at the feet of Kaitlin Torpey 25 yards out; she took one touch to control before hammering the ball past Georgina Worth in the Newcastle goal.

The opening half-hour was played end-to-end at a frenetic pace, and the setback didn’t necessarily perturb the Jets. A Griffith turnover led to Lucy Johnson this time firing right at James, with the Newcastle midfielder moments later also almost dispossessing James attempting to use her feet, all before the 10-minute mark was up. City were uncharacteristically nervous and careless on the ball, as the Jets continued to look to restrict passing lanes and time in possession.

Griffith was a stand-out for the visitors; her nimble feet and speed were eye-catching as she led the Jets’ fast-paced forward three on the transition. Her opposing left-wing and fellow American Emina Ekic was equally as salient, her recent threatening form continuing against Newcastle as well. The two wingers traded first-half chances; Ekic having a tight-angled shot beaten away by Worth, Griffith getting beyond City’s backline, before scuffing her attempt into the arms of James, followed in the next play by Ekic again getting to the byline, and this time pulling the ball right across the face of the goal.

The biggest question for Newcastle however, was whether their rearguard could hold out against an inexorable Melbourne City. As the pressing intensity faded slightly, the Sky Blues were eventually able to find ways into the opposition’s third with more ease, and once there, the resistance they came up against was found lacking.

City found themselves up 3-0 in under 30 minutes, with two goals in quick succession. A glaring mistake from Worth saw her fumble a corner directly into her own net, with the Jets backline caught ball-watching for the third goal, as all three of City’s forwards were able to get shots off on the beleaguered Worth, Bryleeh Henry finally putting home from 2 yards out.

Before the break, Henry mirrored Ekic’s earlier effort by cutting the ball back across the face of the goal from the right side this time, after great play from Davidson and Chinnama to beat the press. But going in at half-time it was a tale of one side taking their chances, and the other not, with City surely holding one of the most fortunate three-goal leads they have had.

Newcastle came out of the interval desperate to get on the scoreboard, making an attacking change by sending on striker Andrews. They picked up the energy and tempo of the game once again and continued to frustrate City in their build-up.

It almost paid off, coming close to reducing the deficit early in the second half, as they hit the woodwork twice. Two sloppy Melbourne turnovers led firstly to another Griffith shot in the 50th minute, this time glancing just the wrong side of the post, before defender Katie Bowen two minutes later gifted the ball to Andrews who crashed a shot off the crossbar from just outside the box.

Newcastle eventually got the goal their play deserved, with Andrews rising highest to nod home a Brodigan free kick in the 70th minute. They almost had their second soon after, this time Brodigan striking iron from 30 yards out from a Griffith layoff.

Henry should have done better to put the game to bed in the 74th minute but skied a near-post chance after some good work from Ekic to find her. City wasn’t left to fret for much longer, however, with another two goals in two minutes sealing the result.

Substitute Caitlin Karic did brilliantly to connect with a long ball and send a first-time chip in off the far post, with Worth hopelessly caught in no man’s land. Not long after, Ekic for the second week in a row drew a penalty, proving too agile for the Jets’ Cannon Clough, who brought her down. Ekic dusted herself off to dispatch the spot kick and City’s fifth goal herself to cap a player of the match performance.

It led to a gaudy final score which probably flattered Melbourne City, but showcased the outcome of having proven finishers in the side. City will look to continue to improve their ability to control games, their possession game somewhat exposed here.

Newcastle will rue their missed opportunities, having had 19 shots, with 10 on target. The Jets will be encouraged by the ongoing impressive work of their forward line but will need their defence to show more competency for them to be considered competitive for the top four.

MELBOURNE CITY (4-3-3): James; Torpey, Chinnama, Bowen, Grosso; Davidson, Galic, Pollicina; Henry, Rojas, Ekic. Substitutes: Blissett, Mckenna, Checker, Karic, Barbieri.

Scorers: Torpey 6’, Worth (OG) 27’, Henry 29’, Karic 78’, Ekic (pen) 81’.

NEWCASTLE JETS (4-3-3): Worth; Clough, Garnier, King, Puxty; Johnson, Davis, Agnew; Allan, Brodigan, Griffith. Substitutes: Andrews, Stapleford, Coelho, Allen, Konjarski.

Scorers: Andrews 70’

Referee: Rebecca Durcau.

Attendance: 347.

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