Newcastle Jets 0-4 Melbourne City
By Jonathan Tay (4/3/23)
Above: Maria Rojas and Hannah Wilkinson (left) celebrate with Chelsea Blissett (right). Image: @MelbourneCity twitter
Returnees Holly McNamara and Maria Rojas starred as Melbourne City defeated the Newcastle Jets 4-0 on Saturday afternoon.
Rojas opened the scoring for City in the first half, before late goals for Rhianna Pollicina, Bryleeh Henry, and Hannah Wilkinson sealed the away victory for the Melbournians.
This was McNamara’s first official game action after over 12 months out, having suffered an ACL tear in February 2022. The 20-year-old was a breakout star of last season’s Liberty A-League, with four goals and three assists in just eight games before her devastating injury.
Melbourne City also welcomed back Rojas to the squad for the first time since Gameweek five. The Sky Blues had sorely missed her creativity and goal-scoring ability, having seen the expected goals on average more than halve in Rojas’ time away. The Chilean was part of her national team’s ultimately unsuccessful campaign to qualify for the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand later this year.
For Newcastle, Teigan Allen and teenager Chloe Walandouw were drafted into a Jets backline missing both centre-backs Emily Garnier and Taren King. Each was suspended after a red card and yellow card respectively last weekend in a dispiriting 6-0 loss to ladder leaders Western United.
The opening stages of the match were an even contest; whilst Melbourne City customarily dominated possession, they created few clear-cut chances. Newcastle were competitive and looked to carve out opportunities on the counter-attack. Lauren Allen couldn’t quite control her shot after getting on the end of a nicely-shaped Murphy Agnew cross, and Cass Davis had their best chance of the game; her fierce strike palmed onto the post by City keeper Sally James.
Things changed however midway through the first period. City boss Dario Vidosic had initially deployed striker Wilkinson out on the left wing to begin the game, a curious decision given her lack of pace and difficulty beating players with the ball on the ground.
A switch in positions with McNamara paid almost immediate dividends, with the opening goal coming in the 25th minute. A Pollicina through ball found McNamara in stride as she burst towards the byline. Her centering ball back to Pollicina saw the midfielder strike the post with her effort, but Rojas was on hand to put home the rebound from close range.
McNamara went on to provide a huge reminder of the talent the league saw from her before her extended absence last season. Her touch-tight control, speed, and one-on-one ability were all on display out on the wing as she took advantage of the undermanned Jets defence. Her dribbling allowed her to create consecutive chances from dangerous crosses for Henry, Pollicina again, and Wilkinson, whilst she had two first-half shots herself saved by Jets keeper Georgina Worth.
City midfielder McKenna had a rasping effort palmed away by Worth in injury time of the opening period; the Newcastle goalie produced a valiant performance in an ultimately lost cause on the day. Melbourne City racked up 12 shots in the first half alone and showed glimpses of some of their early season, free-flowing offensive form.
McNamara picked up in the second half where she left off, latching onto another Pollicina pass; her run beyond the defence forcing Worth into a breakaway stop. However, with the Jets resorting to physicality in an attempt to slow her down, and her minutes being managed in her first game returning from injury, McNamara’s impressive showing ended at the 60-minute mark, as she was substituted for Chelsea Blissett. City though, kept the pressure on, with Pollicina and Henry calling Worth into further saves, as the Melbournians sought the comfort of a two-goal lead.
Newcastle rarely threatened to find an equaliser, an Agnew drive straight at James the closest they came. A second did eventually come for City, followed just three minutes later by a third. Kaitlyn Torpey’s curled cross landed at the feet of Wilkinson, who laid off to Pollicina to finish well, before Henry connected with Blissett between the lines, and fired low into the bottom corner. Wilkinson wrapped up the scoring in the 94th minute, on hand to follow up another Pollicina long range strike which smacked the crossbar.
With the win, City continue to keep pace with the top of the league and move into second place (though Sydney FC, in third, play tomorrow). They will hope McNamara and Rojas continue to re-energise the squad heading into the four remaining matches before the Finals. Newcastle meanwhile, suffers their seventh loss in eight games and will have a challenge on their hands to stave off the wooden spoon whilst playing out the string of their season.
Teams: NEWCASTLE JETS (4-3-3): Worth; Clough, Allen, Puxty, Walandouw; Johnson, Davis, Agnew; Allan, Brodigan, Gooch. Substitutes: Coelho (GK), Roach, Andrews, Morley, Morley, Pountney.
MELBOURNE CITY (4-3-3): James; Torpey, Checker, Bowen, Grosso; McKenna, Pollicina; Henry, Rojas, McNamara, Wilkinson. Substitutes: Varley (GK), Accardo, Blissett, Malone.
Scorers: Rojas 25’, Pollicina 79’, Henry 81’, Wilkinson 90+4’.
Referee: Kelly Jones.