Four-and-a-half thousand fans go home feeling nothing but disappointed as a toneless Jets performance was overrun by the Reds.
Adelaide United were forced to make the lengthy trip to Newcastle for the first of the two all-A-League Australia Cup Round of 32 clashes.
The Reds entered the match with only one new signing in the starting eleven, and rightfully so after a memorable 2021/22 campaign that saw them finish fourth in the league.
On the other hand, Newcastle Jets’ started four new signings, three prioritised in the attacking phase.
The pace injection of Jaushua Sotirio and Trent Buhagiar proved penetrative down the flanks, catching out the Adelaide defence on multiple occasions.
But it was Newcastle defender Jordan Elsey who was given the first chance. Getting on the end of a dead ball, Elsey glanced a header just over the crossbar, fittingly setting the tone for the Jets’ first half and allowing the first roar from an active crowd.
Adelaide held the majority of possession and picked their attacks accordingly as they continued their fine form off the back of last season.
Controversy struck in the 11th minute with Beka Mikeltadze dropping to the ground alongside Red’s defender Lachlan Barr alluding to an altercation between the two. But the off-the-ball incident was quickly waved with no referee catching it.
The bombardment of Newcastle attacks showcased all but nullified the fan’s fears of a reduction of injection during the final third phase, with only the creativity of Penha a notable absence. In place was Angus Thurgate, who is looking to take on a more advanced role this season.
Realistic attempts from Thurgate, Grozos, Mikeltadze, and co could have given the lead to Newcastle on many occasions, but they could not create a clear-cut chance at the end of their attacks.
Adelaide’s patience deep in Jet’s territory proved a fortunate feature of their game at the death of the period.
In the last minute of the half, a reckless challenge by Jet’s midfielder Kosta Grozos gave Adelaide a prime opportunity to take the lead. Near the corner of the 18-yard, Zach Clough stepped up in place of the absent Craig Goodwin due to injury and whipped in a dime, with George Blackwood picking up the scraps and giving the Red’s a precious lead going into the sheds.
Newcastle Jets came out firing in the second period. A late challenge on Thurgate inside the box was let go by the referee. Not long after, Grozos was taken down in a similar spot that led to United’s goal but unfortunately could not replicate to equalise the score.
The Jets continued to apply most of the pressure, drenching United with flurries of shots and positive possession. The injection of attacking fullback James McGarry and Archie Goodwin to replace Jason Hoffman and Sotirio only added to that. But a Hiroshi Ibusuki moment of inspiration put the final nail in the coffin for Newcastle.
On a counterattack where you could smell a goal from the moment of its inception. A four-against-three scenario favouring Adelaide proved vital, as Zach Clough completed his second assist that ended with an Ibusuki wonder bicycle into the bottom corner with 13 minutes to spare
The remaining 10 minutes were dominated by Newcastle possession and the odd Adelaide counter, with Weier pulling off a third magical save for the night. But the home side could not convert, starting their competitive campaign indifferent from the prior season.
REDS CONTINUE HOT FORM
Many A-League Men’s watches doubted Adelaide United at the beginning of the campaign, mainly due to a lack of depth in quality. But they proved the doubters were mistaken, finishing best of the rest behind a three-legged title race.
From the kick-off, there were telling signs that Carl Veart’s brand of football has not changed, even in the slightest of tweaks. The Reds were calm on the ball, disciplined and structured in defence, and fluid at times in the attacking phase.
The result and statistics only prove this point evermore. Veart is seemingly happy with how his side performed and has only made two signings thus far, Ben Warland and starting right back Harry Van der Saag.
Zach Clough’s performance is also worth mentioning, assisting the two Adelaide goals with delicate lobs between his opponent’s defensive line.
PENHA’S ABSENCE NOTED
Newcastle Jets have seemingly no real problems when penetrating the final third with Sotirio, Buhagiar, and even a more advanced Thurgate bombarding behind the defence.
But there is a noted lack of creativity and flair when the Jets try to construct sophisticated forward plays. This lack of flamboyancy can be narrowed down to Daniel Penha’s move to K-League club Daegu FC.
Penha was a god-sent for Newcastle as he produced one of the most iconic one-off A-League seasons while also breaking the assists record in a season, totalling 12 over the 26 fixtures. But that is now a near-impossible void to fill.
All the fans are left with for now, at least between now and the next expected batch of Newcastle Jets signings, are rigid, toneless.
MICHAEL WEIER TO SOLIDIFY NO. 1
There were a few stars for the night, Clough, Ibusuki, Thurgate. But the man who complied the most reels for his highlights was Jets goalkeeper Michael Weier.
Coming to Newcastle from NPL Victoria side Hume City last season, Weier was initially seen as a backup. But having proved his worth throughout the backend of 21/22 with some fantastic performances, it seems Arthur Papas has decided to go with Weier over Jack Duncan for the upcoming season.
Unlike Newcastle, Adelaide were clinical in finishing and tested Weier throughout the night. The Reds could have easily taken an earlier lead, but a few reactive saves from Weier spared his side until the last minute of the half.
Australia Cup Round of 32, McDonald Jones Stadium
Newcastle Jets 0
Adelaide United 2 (George Blackwood 45m, Hiroshi Ibusuki 78m)