The Newcastle Jets youth team were defeated 2-0 by the Australian Institute of Sport in their Foxtel National Youth League season opener at the AIS Athletics Track on Saturday.
Goals in each half from Alexander Gersbach and Bai Antoniou did the damage for the AIS while the Jets were also frustrated by an outstanding display by Institute goalkeeper Jordan Thurtell.
Thurtell put in a man of the match display, making a number of fine saves to set the platform for an opening day success.
The opening quarter was a fairly scrappy affair with neither side able to gain any meaningful possession and the only moment of note the first card of the season in the seventh minute as Liam Rose saw yellow for a late lunge on the flying James Virgili.
Gersbach went closest for the hosts early on with a fierce drive from long-range that flashed just over the top of John Solari’s goal whilst the Jets responded immediately with the ever-dangerous Virgili drawing a save from Thurtell, the AIS stopper palming the ball over the bar in the 18th minute.
If the Gersbach effort was a warning for the Jets they didn’t heed it and paid the price six minutes later. Anthony Kalik did superbly to close down the Jets defence getting a vital touch on the ball and diverting it into the path of Gersbach who did the rest, taking a touch and crashing a low shot beyond Solari and into the bottom corner.
Kale Bradbury should have equalised for the Jets before the break but was denied by Thurtell who stood up strong to smoother the one-on-one.
The visitors wasted another gilt-edged chance in the shadows of half-time. A week back pass let in Joe Gibbs but Thurtell was quick off his line to push the ball away. It ran free to Brandon Lundy who could only send his half-volley wide of a gaping goal as the AIS went into the sheds leading 1-0.
Gersbach was looking the liveliest player on the pitch and almost doubled the AIS’ advantage 10 minutes after the resumption seeing Solari dive to his right to push a fierce free-kick past the post. Meanwhile, Thurtell was a one-man wall at the back again denying the Jets when an equaliser looked likely.
Cometh the hour and the changes that are prevalent in the National Youth League with both teams emptying the bench and the match taking a while to settle into any sort of rhythm once again. AIS substitute Marc Marino was the first to make his presence felt, utilising his pace to skip away and send a dangerous cross into the penalty box which just eluded the on-rushing Marc Ochieng. The Jets struggled to find a riposte as time began to tick away.
When they did sneak an opening goalkeeper Thurtell was equal to the task and it was from Thurtell making a save that the AIS sealed the contest with 18 minutes remaining.
The Institute broke with pace and substitute Antoniou burst clear of a static Jets defence to streak into the box and plant a firm shot into the far corner for a superb finish.
Foxtel National Youth League
AIS 2 (Alexander Gersbach 24’, Bai Antoniou 72’)
Newcastle Jets 0
AIS: 1. Jordan THURTELL, 2. Darcy MADDEN, 3. Brendan GONANO, 4. Ben WARLAND, 5. Matthew SCHMIDT, 9. Todd NORRIS (11. Marc MARINO 58’), 12. Marc OCHIENG, 16. Jordan PUDLER (6. Matthew NTOUMENOPOULOS 55’), 17. Anthony KALIK, 18. Alexander GERSBACH (24. Bai ANTONIOU 58’), 22. Liam ROSE (16. Jordan PUDLER 71’)
Newcastle Jets: 1. John SOLARI, 2. Reece PAPAS (14. Michael KANTAROVSKI 58’), 3. Thomas WHITESIDE, 4. Nicholas COWBURN, 5. Matthew BILIC (12. Willis NADFALUSI 46’, 2. Reece PAPAS 68’), 6. Mitchell OXBOROUGH, 7. James VIRGILI, 8. Michael FINLAYSON (13. Radovan PAVICEVIC 57’), 9. Joe GIBBS, 10. Brandon LUNDY, 11. Kale BRADBURY
YELLOW CARDS: 2. Darcy MADDEN, 12. Marc OCHIENG, 16. Jordan PUDLER, 17. Anthony KALIK, 18. Alexander GERSBACH, 22. Liam ROSE (AIS), 12. Willis NADFALUSI (Newcastle Jets)