Jets beat Mariners 2-1 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Jets beat Mariners 2-1

By Philip Henderson 12/01/2008 09:58:25 PM Comments (0)

Newcastle cemented a berth in the A-League finals while surging into reckoning for the minor premiership after a 2-1 victory over Central Coast.

The Jets joined their NSW rivals at the top of the table on 31 points after Joel Griffiths' 11th goal of the season broke a 1-1 halftime deadlock in front of a record crowd of more than 19,000 at Bluetongue Stadium.

The result opens the door for either Queensland Roar or Sydney FC (both 30 points) to snare top spot heading into the final round when they clash at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday night.

It also closes shut the finals hopes of both Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United, with the Jets win meaning the top four is now confirmed.

Amazingly, all four finals teams could be tied on 31 points come the end of round 20 if Queensland and Sydney draw on Sunday, setting up a thrilling finale to the league title race.

Having taken a one-point lead into the weekend, the Mariners again faltered on home turf, losing their third straight game in Gosford - with all three coming in front of record crowds.

They were first undone by a Central Coast junior when teenager James Holland, who was training with the Mariners just last month before signing with Newcastle, stunned the home side with the opening goal in just the sixth minute.

Adam Kwasnik squared the ledger three minutes later when he stepped inside two Jets defenders to shoot sweetly from 15 metres. It gave the striker the distinction of becoming the first Mariner to score a goal against every A-League opponent.

Both sides had several chances to take a lead into the break, but the Mariners were perhaps most thankful to be 1-1 at halftime after goalkeeper Danny Vukovic pulled off a string of fine saves to boost his Socceroo prospects with Australia boss Pim Verbeek among the 19,238-strong crowd.

Not to be outdone, fellow Socceroos hopeful Ante Covic starred in goal for the Jets in the second half, laying claim to the save of the night when he showed great reflexes to tip an on-target header from John Aloisi onto the crossbar and to safety.

By that stage Griffiths had already regained the lead for the Jets when he latched on to a superb long pass from Andrew Durante and then out-muscled Mariners skipper Alex Wilkinson to slot home what proved the winner seven minutes into the second half.

While perhaps missing the fireworks of previous NSW derbies between the clubs, the clash did draw blood - out of a Kwasnik's nose - caused by an accidental forearm to the face from Griffiths in the first half.

Coach Lawrie McKinna suggested his slumping side no longer deserved to win the minor premiership.

Having led the league for all but two of the opening 19 rounds, the Mariners could slip as low as fourth if they fail to beat Wellington on Saturday after winning just one of their last seven games.

"Three home games, three bad results, no excuses, that's not good enough," McKinna said.

"If you're going to win the minor premiership you've got to win your home games.

"Our hard work was all done in the beginning of the season and middle of the season, but at the end of the season we've just tapered off at the wrong time.

"Hopefully a draw (Sunday, between Queensland and Sydney) and we can only wish (of winning the minor premiership), but we don't deserve it. We can only pick things up for the finals."

Jets coach Gary van Egmond labelled Covic's second-half save as "outrageous".

"We actually commented, it was just outrageous that save," van Egmond said.

"It was just a real reflex save. He made himself really big, John's done the right thing and headed the ball back across (the goal) and he's got a big paw to it and it's come off the bar, and that's it. You're never beaten and that's his attitude."

All four of the top teams face clubs below them on the table next weekend, with the Jets fancying their chances of a top two finish playing bottom club Perth at home on Friday.

"It sets it up now against Perth, you win that last home game ... and 34 points will go very close to getting you in the top two. And if you really want to challenge (for the championship) you have to be in that top two."

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