Saturday night football in the Hunter had the Jets hosting the Victory in what was a do or die game if either side have any chance to play finals this season.
Considering it was only two seasons ago the sides were facing each other in a grand final, they’re now battling on the opposite end of the table and it hasn’t been pretty for either set of players or fans this season.
With Port Macquarie Pele and Kiwi Messi starting for either side, Hoogland also starting for the visitors, O’Donovan returning to the Hunter and the highly anticipated league debut of Wes Hoolahan for the Jets who was named on the bench, it was looking set to be an interesting tousle between both sides who to be brutal, needed to win or start getting used to the idea of no finals football.
It was the hosts who came out of the blocks flying and it was Arroyo who slotted the ball past Thomas in the 8th. Yep great start by the home side, until referee Faghani bought the ball back for a drop ball and scrapped the goal. According to the new law changes, if it makes contact with the ref than “too bad” and no goal. Now as a Victory fan I was like thank the heavens! But taking a step back you’d be livid if you were a Jets fan.
Arroyo must’ve accumulated bad karma, or pissed someone off because the poor bloke couldn’t seem to catch a break. This time in the 16th when he once again found the back of the net, and again no goal. This time for offside! It wasn’t all doom and gloom if you’re a Jets fan (or if you enjoy seeing a Victory side in shambles) when Dimi Petratos found the returning Roy O’Donovan in the 25th and this time there was no taking that back. The ball smashed into the crossbar, bounced into the back of the net and out again. A quick VAR check and the ball had crossed the line.
Third time lucky and the Jets had the lead! The Jets were playing with positive energy and intensity that we haven’t seen in a while and it would’ve been really enjoyable if it wasn’t against my team.
In the meantime, Melbourne Victory were… well… a mess. The midfield (WHAT MIDFIELD?! WE COULDN’T GET THE BALL PAST THE HALF WAY LINE) was non-existent and our defence was leakier than the Titanic. Not sure what Carlos Salvachua was thinking, but he really should’ve shifted Rojas and Kamsoba to boss the wings and slotted Nabbout in just behind Ola Toivonen to try make something happen but I wasn’t optimistic.
It was finally half time and the Vuck should have considered themselves really lucky to only be heading into the sheds 1-0 down. A Kevin Muscat-esque “pep talk” was needed at half time, much like my patience and optimism their season was bursting into flames by the minute.
The second half was underway and it was getting more painful with every passing minute to watch the Victory who were looking disjointed and uncomfortable (yes… I know they’ve had a lot of travel this week due to ACL commitments but it isn’t the first time they have had to deal with a packed schedule). Then out of nowhere Hoogland whipped a beautiful ball into the area finding Ola Toivonen who wasn’t going to miss from there.
We really don’t deserve Ola, the Big Swede netted his 10th goal in a season where he has been injured, the team has been lacking quality most of the time and we honestly do not deserve his calibre and skill at the moment. (Seriously, what will it take for him to sign on for one more season though?!).
The Jets were still dominating drawing another save from Thomas in the 59th and a sigh of relief from the visitors in the 61st following a freekick taken on the edge of the box by Petratos that was just wide.
Shortly after it was time to welcome Hoolahan into the mix with Thurgate making way for the Irishman. He made an impact in the first few minutes, chipping the ball over the Vuck defence to Millar who went down following a tousle with Traore. In my opinion it should’ve been a penalty, he got to the ball first and Traore fouled him. The VAR looked like it wanted to re-live that 2018 GF moment and while it was “working” this time, it was once again to the detriment of the Jets.
Whilst the Victory were lucky to walk away with a draw following a stoppage time header by Kosta Petratos that went over the bar. However, Kiwi Messi could’ve scored in the 90+3 after a one-on-one with Italiano… how he missed I will never know. (To be fair Italiano bit the bullet and got enough on it to put the Kiwi off).
Full time. The result doesn’t particularly benefit either side who need to string wins together to have any chance of finals football and the Jets were unlucky to not have put three or four past the Victory. The only positive I could take from that were thank goodness for Ola and Kiwi Messi has nice hair (neither of which will help us if the entire team doesn’t lift).
By Jakie Manevski