A brace from Nathan Burns saw the Hunter Ports Newcastle Jets notch a 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on Sunday night.
In the A-League’s 1000th competitive fixture, it was the home side who started the brightest, with Jets shot stopper Mark Birighitti putting his body on the line to deny Mark Milligan inside the first minute after he had been put through on goal by an exquisite chipped through ball from Mitch Nichols.
Melbourne continued to apply pressure to the Jets’ back four, with Kosta Barbourses threatening to get in behind on a number of occasions, only to be thwarted by the offside flag.
The Victory earned three consecutive corners around the 10-minute mark, the third of which saw Rashid Mahazi hit a powerful header over Birighitti’s crossbar.
The Jets’ first clear-cut opportunity of the match came in the 17th minute of the contest when Nathan Burns cut in from the left flank and screwed his shot across the face of goal.
The ball fell at the feet of Adam Taggart, whose first time shot was only kept out of the back of the net by a sharp reflex save by Victory goalkeeper Nathan Coe.
The Victory responded two minutes later with Connor Pain shooting wide of the target after being put through on goal by Barbarouses who had slalomed his way through the Jets’ defence.
Barbarouses then brought a sharp low save out of Birighitti with a powerful drive from just inside the penalty area in the 32nd minute.
Traore was the next Victory player to force Birighitti into action, with the Ivorian unleashing a swerving left-footed strike from 30 metres out which brought a spectacular diving save from the former Adelaide United goalkeeper.
The Jets finished the first half strongly, with Zadkovich and Kantarovski trying their luck from outside the penalty area but shooting wide of the target.
Newcastle eventually broke the deadlock right on the stroke of half-time after some lovely one-touch build-up play involving Sam Gallaway, Josh Brillante and Adam Taggart unlocked the Victory defence.
The final pass from Taggart was perfectly weighted and gave Burns enough time and space inside the box to finish strongly with his left foot past Coe and into the bottom corner of the net.
Melbourne responded just four minutes after the interval following a neat passage of play on the edge of the penalty area that finished with Pain laying on a pass for James Troisi who calmly slotted the ball past Birighitti to level things up at 1-1.
With the momentum having shifted in their favour, Melbourne continued to apply pressure to the Jets’ defence, with Barbarouses hitting the side netting in the 58th minute after being put through on goal by Rashid Mahazi.
The Jets were sparked back into life by second-half substitute James Brown, who provided plenty of attacking impetus down the left flank following his introduction in the 54th minute.
It was Brown’s good lead-up work that allowed the Jets to retake the lead in the 66th minute, with his cross from the right wing travelling through a sea of legs to an unmarked Burns at the back post.
Burns was clinical with his first-time effort, side-footing the ball with his right boot back across Coe and into the back of the net to make it 2-1.
Jacob Pepper almost extended the Jets’ lead just four minutes later, rising high to meet Brown’s corner with a powerful header that forced Nichols to make a goal-saving goal line clearance.
Melbourne pushed hard in search of an equaliser with Nichols reviewing the ball from Gui Finkler before firing a low shot from an acute angle that forced Birighitti to make a sharp one-handed save low to his left in the 74th minute.
The home side pulled out all stops as they endeavoured to at least grab a share of the spoils, with Troisi attempting an audacious chip over the head of Birighitti, only to see the ball land on the roof of the net.
In the end, the Victory were unable to find a way past a sturdy Jets defence and Newcastle picked up three valuable points, elevating them to third on the Hyundai A-League ladder.
Melbourne Victory 1 (Troisi 50’)
Newcastle Jets 2 (Burns 44’, 67’)
Crowd 18,113 @ AAMI Park