Terry Antonis celebrates his matchwinning goal against the Jets. Picture: AAP
Terry Antonis celebrates his matchwinning goal against the Jets. Picture: AAP

Victory edge home as touted showdown proves fizzer

THERE was no A-League title on the line and no VAR malfunction, just another 1-0 Melbourne Victory win over Newcastle.

That was about the long and short of last night's grand-final rematch, one that promised spice and vengeance but delivered a deadlock and eventual breakthrough via Terry Antonis' second goal in as many matches.

Six months ago at McDonald Jones Stadium the Jets felt robbed and Victory fabulous, if not slightly fortuitous.

 

Here Ernie Merrick's side could only rue their inability to put the defending champions away when they had the chance, as Antonis struck a deserving second-half winner to get Victory off the mark and leave their hosts bottom with a single point from three games.

"It's a disappointing result after dominating so much of game," Merrick said.

"I was very impressed with the way we played ... we had more than enough opportunities to score right until the death and we couldn't put one away.

"They caught us on the counter and after that they went defensive and just played counter-attacking football."

As he did last week, Keisuke Honda laid off the assist at the same venue he'd scored an Asian Cup goal for Japan against Palestine back in 2015.

And though Honda had a comparatively subdued night, the marquee's class emerged at the pivotal moment to ensure the 32-year-old has been involved in all his team's goals this season.

"The game itself wouldn't have been particularly nice to watch," Victory coach Kevin Muscat said.

"It was a contest, the ball spent a lot of time in the air ... we gifted a bit of territory in that first half but we defended with great resilience.

"Great combination for our goal and a great strike from Terry. After that first 15 minutes we were deserved of the three points for that second-half performance."

The Jets had the early running, pressing and pressuring their visitors and racking up 12 first-half shots to Victory's five.

They may have stolen an early advantage had Ronny Vargas' strike not cannoned off the bottom side of the crossbar, yet for all the neat build-up play the target remained elusive.

And by the end of a lengthy stoppage when Georg Niedermeier received medical attention following a challenge from Jason Hoffman, Victory had found their footing.

After the break they rediscovered their flow, and it was only a matter of time before someone scored.

Newcastle goalkeeper Glen Moss tries in vain to save Antonis’ shot. Picture: Getty Images
Newcastle goalkeeper Glen Moss tries in vain to save Antonis’ shot. Picture: Getty Images

Kosta Barbarouses, the man who netted the controversial offside grand-final winner, thought he'd made the difference again when James Troisi slipped a ball through Newcastle's defence for the Kiwi international to fire home.

In pure irony, his celebrations were cut short when the flag went up and the VAR confirmed he'd been marginally offside.

Nonetheless it was a warning, and Barbarouses fired another two minutes later when his shot was deflected out for a corner.

Usually reliable Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas very nearly gifted the Jets the lead when he shanked a clearance off the side of his boot that hurtled backwards and just wide of his own goal.

The match opened up as Dimi Petratos diverted a volley high and more chances went begging.

Then, in the 71st minute, a gap opened. Honda found Antonis and he drove the ball hard and low into the bottom corner.

Jet Matthew Ridenton makes life tough for his Victory opponent. Picture: Getty Images
Jet Matthew Ridenton makes life tough for his Victory opponent. Picture: Getty Images

"That was a very intense game. At the start there they were on top of us, but we built our way into the game and got the win," Antonis said.

Jets defender Nigel Boogaard was disappointed with the manner of the loss

"I thought we had the better chances to bury the game," he said. "To be honest they just seemed to sit back and rely on the counter which teams seem to be doing against us at the moment.

"I felt like we had enough possession in good areas to punish them.

"To concede a goal like that, long range effort, with no one closing him down, we've got to do better than that."



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