The Newcastle Jets played out a 0-0 draw with Perth Glory in their opening home game of the season at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
The Jets started strongly in their first outing in front of their home fans, with set pieces providing their main scoring threat in the early stages of the contest.
Zadkovich’s free-kick in the sixth minute of the contest picked out Kew Jaliens’ run to the back post.
The Dutchman headed the ball into a dangerous area back across the face of goal, but Adam Taggart arrived just a fraction too late to convert the chance and the ball rolled out harmlessly for a goal kick.
Just three minutes later, the Jets were awarded another free-kick in a dangerous position. This time Zadkovich’s delivery found Michael Bridges unmarked at the back post, but the Englishman was unable to direct his header towards goal.
The Jets went close to taking the lead again in the 18th minute with Craig Goodwin’s in-swinging corner nearly curling in at the back post with Vukovic stranded.
In testing conditions on a hot spring afternoon, the Jets had to look no further than skipper Ruben Zadkovich for inspiration.
Zadkovich’s relentless intensity and ball pressure saw him chase after a back-pass to Danny Vukovic and blocked the Perth goalkeeper’s attempted clearance, only to see the deflected ball trickle agonisingly wide of the goal.
Perth’s best chance of the half came in the 31st minute through Jamie Maclaren, who was allowed time and space on the edge of the box, only to hit his shot directly at Jets goalkeeper Mark Birighitti.
The Jets threatened again from a set piece as the first half drew to a close, with Zadkovich curling in another free-kick from the left flank towards the back post.
On this occasion, Scott Neville out-leaped his marker and met the ball with a powerful header that was ever so slightly off target.
Perth were the first side to threaten after the interval, with Adrian Zahra’s cross picking out Sidnei Sciola’s’ run to the far post.
The Brazilian managed to direct his header towards goal, but Birighitti covered his near post well and made a comfortable save.
The Jets nearly took the lead in fortuitous fashion in the 58th minute, with Sam Gallaway’s attempted cross drifting over the head of Vukovic and ricocheting off the crossbar.
Nathan Burns hit his follow-up effort cleanly, but was unable to keep it down and on target.
Neville was the next Jets player to try their luck, with the right full-back unleashing a stinging drive that forced Vukovic to make a sharp reflex save at his near post.
While it was the Jets who had fashioned the majority of clear-cut chances throughout the contest, Perth went close to snatching all three points on a number of occasions over the final 15 minutes.
McLaren should have given the visitors the lead in the 76th minute after pouncing on a mistake from Jets defender Jacob Pepper, before finding himself in a one-on-one situation with Birighitti.
However, Birightii stood tall and made a crucial save with a his foot to spare Pepper’s blushes.
Birighitti was in the action again just four minutes later, making a spectacular diving save to keep out Sidnei’s long range strike that looked destined for the top corner.
Just as the match looked destined to end as a draw, the Jets were denied a strong claim for a penalty with just two minutes remaining after Burns appeared to be brought down in the box by Jack Clisby.
However, much to the shock of the pro-Newcastle crowd and Burns’ Jets teammates, referee Shaun Evans ruled there to have been no infringement.
Burns continued to go in search of a the match-winner for the Jets, showing quick feet to work his way into the box in stoppage time, but he was unable to get enough power behind his shot to beat Vukovic as the match ended in a scoreless draw.
Newcastle Jets 0
Perth Glory 0