A brace to Milos Trifunovic saw 10-man Melbourne City fall to a shock 2-1 defeat against Newcastle Jets at Hunter Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
After a tense opening period saw both sides enter the break on level terms, the contest sparked to life only two minutes after the restart when Trifunovic fired Newcastle into the lead from the penalty spot, after City defender Jack Clisby was penalised for handball.
City were reduced to 10-men when Jacob Melling was given a straight red card for a last man foul on Danish striker Morten Nordstrand, who turned provider for Trifunovic’s second goal of the evening as the Jets made the most of their numerical advantage.
It was a resolute defensive performance from Scott Miller’s side, who effectively marshalled the threat of City duo Harry Novillo and Bruno Fornaroli, until the Uruguayan produced a moment of brilliance to give his side hope with ten minutes to play - his 15th goal of an outstanding season.
But it wasn’t to be for John van’t Schip’s side, who missed an opportunity to maintain the pace with Western Sydney Wanderers at the top of the table.
It was the hosts who carved out the first dangerous opportunity of a cagey first half, with a neat interchange down Newcastle’s right side allowing Jason Hoffman to float a teasing cross into the path of Milos Trifunovic, who could only manage to skew a free header wide of the target.
City was dominant in possession throughout the early stages of the first half, with midfield maestro Mooy the nucleus of his side’s most dangerous attacking opportunities.
A delightful sweeping pass from the Socceroos midfielder left the dangerous Fornaroli one-on-one with Nicholas Cowburn in the 10th minute, who twisted and turned past the attention of the Jets defender before seeing his effort deflected out for a corner.
City threatened again in the 17th minute when Novillo saw a stinging drive deflected out for a corner by Daniel Mullen, while it took a strong right hand from Thomas Sorensen to tip a rasping drive from Enver Alivodic out for a corner only four minutes later.
Newcastle grew in confidence as the half progressed and nearly capitalised on a defensive blunder when Trifunovic found himself through on goal following an errant pass, but Sorensen showed great alertness to push the striker wide enough to thwart the danger.
Novillo then curled an effort agonisingly wide of the post in the 31st minute after Fornaroli was dispossessed outside the area by a resolute Newcastle defence, before Mooy and Jacob Melling were thwarted by a fine double save from Jets ‘keeper Mark Birighitti as both sides entered the break on level terms.
Despite finishing the stronger of the two sides at the end of the first half, City were dealt a significant blow only two minutes after the restart when Clisby was penalised for handling Jason Hoffman’s shot inside the area – a somewhat harsh decision considering the defenders close proximity to the initial strike.
Trifunovic made no mistake from the spot, coolly sending Sorensen the wrong way to fire the Jets into the lead.
The Serbian striker had a golden opportunity to double Newcastle’s lead only three minutes later when he controlled expertly inside the penalty area, only to scuff a tame shot which was easily gathered by Sorensen.
The narrow escape prompted an instant response from City as Mooy’s curling effort was nicked out for a corner by the lunging Hoffman, while it took a goal-line clearance from Michael Zullo to deny Trifunovic at the other end as the Jets nearly punished Melbourne with a swift counter-attack.
City’s misery would be compounded in the 63rd minute when Melling was given his marching orders for a foul on Nordstrand, who was deemed by referee Adam Fielding to be the last man standing between the Danish striker and the goal.
The Jets began to capitalise on their numerical advantage, with Sorensen producing a superb double save to deny Steven Ugarkovic and Trifunovic in quick succession to keep his side in the contest.
But the pressure eventually told in the 72nd minute as Trifunovic slotted home his second goal of the evening, latching on to a delightful pass from Nordstrand and calmly sliding the ball first time past Sorensen to double the Jets’ lead.
Chasing a two-goal deficit with one less player was always going to be a tall order for City, but van’t Schip’s side were given a ray of hope with ten minutes to play – and it was no surprise that it came from the golden boot of Fornaroli.
The chance all started from the Uruguayan, who danced past the challenges of four Newcastle defenders before dinking a neat pass to Nick Fitzgerald, who returned the favour with a superb cross which Fornaroli headed home with aplomb to ensure a tense finale.
But despite some late pressure, it was too little, too late for City as van't Schip's side fell to a narrow defeat.
Hyundai A-League Round 18
Sunday, 7 February 2016
Newcastle Jets 2 (Milos TRIFUNOVIC 47’,72’)
Melbourne City FC 1 (Bruno FORNAROLI 80’)
Venue: Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
Referee: Adam Fielding
Melbourne City FC line-up: 1. Thomas SORENSEN (GK), 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 8. Aaron MOOY, 9. Harry NOVILLO, 11. Michael ZULLO (Benjamin GARUCCIO 73’), 18. Paulo RETRE (Nick FITZGERALD 53’), 22. Jack CLISBY, 23. Bruno FORNAROLI, 24. Patrick KISNORBO (C), 25. Jacob MELLING, 33. Osama MALIK (Jason TRIFIRO 80’)
Substitutes not used: 20. Dean BOUZANIS, 17. Wade DEKKER,
Yellow cards: Clisby 47’, Malik 55’, Sorensen 64’, Franjic 67’
Red cards: Melling 63’
Newcastle Jets line-up: 1. Mark BIRIGHITTI (GK), 2. Daniel MULLEN, 3. Jason HOFFMAN, 4. Nigel BOOGAARD (C), 7. Enver ALIVODIC, 8. Mateo POLJAK, 9. Milos TRIFUNOVIC, 10. LEONARDO (Morten NORDSTRAND 63’), 14. Mitch COOPER (Radovan PAVICEVIC 85’), 16. Steven UGARKOVIC, 24. Nicholas COWBURN,
Substitutes not used: 20. Ben KENNEDY (GK), 22. Lachlan JACKSON,
Yellow cards: Hoffman 62’, Ugarkovic 74’
Red cards: nil