Melbourne City FC has bowed out of the 2017-18 Hyundai A-League Final Series following their 2-1 Semi Final loss to Newcastle Jets at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night.
Bruno Fornaroli scored the only goal of the first half when he found the back of the net in the opening quarter of an hour following a delightful link-up between Dario Vidosic and Scott Jamieson.
Riley McGree sparked a comeback for the hosts with a spectacular scorpion kick in the 57th minute, before Jason Hoffman sealed the win with a close range strike in the 75th minute.
Head Coach Warren Joyce made no changes to the starting XI that faced Brisbane Roar in last Friday night’s Elimination Final at AAMI Park.
Captain Michael Jakobsen was ruled out for the third successive week, after the centre-back failed to recover in time from a quad injury.
Following an impressive 2-0 win over Brisbane Roar in last Friday night’s Elimination Final at AAMI Park, City travelled to the Hunter Valley determined to create Club history and reach it's first ever Hyundai A-League Grand Final.
Having claimed maximum points from their two previous visits to McDonald Jones Stadium this season, Joyce’s men returned to the venue eager to repeat their past results.
In front of a packed out stadium, it was the home side that wrestled the early ascendency courtesy of an electric opening ten minutes from attacker Dimitri Petratos.
The Jets first chance came six minutes into the match when Petratos whipped in a dangerous cross which beat the awaiting pack and skid past Dean Bouzanis’ far post – much to the relief of the City ‘keeper.
Two minutes later, Petratos again stood over the set-piece, this time finding Jason Hoffman whose header from point blank range was skied over the crossbar. The home side again threatened from the deal ball scenario in the 11th minute when Petratos combined with Ronald Vargas for a short corner before the Socceroos international whipped in another dangerous ball, this time just missing Nigel Boogaard at the back post.
Joyce’s men responded to the Jets early flurry and in the 14th minute took a crucial 1-0 lead through Bruno Fornaroli.
Bouzanis’ quick one touch pass released Scott Jamieson who played a delightful ball through the Jets defence into space to find Dario Vidosic. Vidosic then whipped in a dangerous cross to Fornaroli who beat a lunging Nikolai Topor-Stanley to finish from close range.
Two minutes after falling behind, Riley McGree tried his luck with a half volley from just outside the penalty box that travelled inches over the crossbar.
In the 22nd minute, there was a slight delay in play after the VAR reviewed Johnny Koutroumbis’ tackle on Arzani inside the penalty area. Despite the delay, the referee’s decision of no penalty stood.
Much of City’s resistance in defence during the first 45 minutes was due to the performance of Osama Malik, who was exceptional at the back. Playing in the centre of defence, Malik made numerous challenges to block the Jets when moving forwards, with lunging challenges, blocks and aerial duels won.
As the rain began to tumble in the closing stages of the first-half, Arzani started to find more of the ball at his feet. In the 41st minute, the youngster skipped forward and looked to play the ball out wide, which was chopped off by Boogaard in defence. Defence then turned into attack for the home side but it was a lunging Malik challenge that cut down their attempted counter-attack.
In the third minute of additional time, Petratos fired a bullet of a free-kick from long range which scraped the crossbar much to City’s relief who headed into the break with a 1-0 advantage.
Much like the first period, the second-half started with the hosts on the front foot determined to find a way back into the contest.
In the 55th minute, it was Petratos yet again over the set-piece with the attacker whipping in a lethal cross which missed an unmarked Topor-Stanley by a matter of inches and landed in Bouzanis’ safe hands.
Moments later Newcastle would equalise through Riley McGree following a spectacular scorpion kick that looped over Bouzanis, leaving the keeper with very little chance in the 57th minute.
In the 70th minute City wrestled back the momentum and looked threatening in the attacking third. Sparked by Arzani who turned Daniel Georgievski inside out on the left wing, the ball fell to Luke Brattan on the edge of the area who fired his effort straight at Glen Moss.
Three minutes later Arzani combined superbly with Stefan Mauk, before the latter played a delightful ball through the Jets defence that was met by Vidosic who was ruled to be offside.
Despite City’s efforts, the Jets would take the lead through Jason Hoffman in the 75th minute. Second-half substitute Joe Champness played a low drive into the box, which was met by Malik, but the defenders heavy touch fell to Hoffman who pounced on the ball and buried it from close range.
With a minimum of four minutes of stoppage time added, City was desperate for a late hero. In the 92nd minute, that hero was so nearly Nick Fitzgerald. Arzani whipped in a fierce cross that was met by Fitzgerald at the back post, but the attacker’s header from close range was off target.