Jets claim A-League championship - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Jets claim A-League championship

24/02/2008 07:42:12 PM Comments (0)

Mark Bridge delivered Newcastle their maiden A-League crown in likely his last appearance for the club as the Jets beat Central Coast 1-0 in a dramatic grand final at the Sydney Football Stadium.

The Sydney FC-bound striker made the most of a bumbling error from retiring Mariner Tony Vidmar to slot home the winner in the 64th minute and give Newcastle ultimate bragging rights over their bitter NSW rivals.

The match, though, ended in high controversy when Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic was sent off for dissent after referee Mark Shield appeared to miss a handball from Jets substitute James Holland in the final seconds.

In a clash high on emotion but short on footballing highlights, the Jets controlled much of the game but failed to take advantage until Bridge's timely strike.

Vidmar, the third most-capped Socceroo of all time, timidly gave away possession to the Olyroo star near the halfway line, with Bridge easily out-pacing the 37-year-old veteran before curling his shot around covering defender Alex Wilkinson and Vukovic.

It was Bridge's fifth goal of the season, but easily the most important for the forward who is believed to be on the brink of signing with Sydney FC for next season.

It was also one of the few clear cut chances in the match, but enough for the Jets to gain revenge for their dismal 3-0 loss to the Mariners in the major semi-final two weeks ago.

It was an unfortunate end for Vidmar, who was near flawless until that point in his final competitive game of football.

Central Coast pushed hard for an equaliser, and should have been awarded a penalty in the fourth minute of stoppage time when Tom Pondeljak's corner kick appeared to hit Holland's raised forearm.

The Mariners all charged Shield demanding the penalty be given, but the referee waved them away.

Vukovic went too far with his protest, and was shown a straight red card while striker John Aloisi - who missed the Mariners best chance of the match early in the second half - was also booked.

It was minor premiers the Central Coast's second 1-0 defeat in an A-League grand final after they went down to Sydney FC in season one.

Newcastle coach Gary van Egmond maintained his season-long method of changing his starting XI each week by starting young Korean Jin-Hyung Song in just his third A-League game and shifting James Holland back to the bench.

The move again bore fruit with Song superb and striker Joel Griffiths also causing massive problems in the Central Coast back four.

The crowd of 36,354 at the SFS was the largest of the season.

Jets defender Andrew Durante, who is rumoured to be heading to Wellington Phoenix next season, was awarded the Joe Marston Medal for player of the grand final.

Durante has been a key figure in the Jets-Mariners rivalry, having suffered a broken leg - his second in two years - in the first ever meeting between the two teams back in 2005.

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